49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

April 30, 2009
49ers announce undrafted free agents; sign LB Harris

The 49ers made a dual announcement: They signed linebacker Marques Harris, formerly of the Chargers, to a one-year contract. Harris (6-1, 231) is entering his fifth season. He started six games in the last four years in San Diego and has 75 tackles, eight sacks, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles over that span. The team also released a list of the 12 undrafted free agents they have signed. Michigan State defensive end Brandon Long is not on that list. Long apparently failed his physical. Here's some information on the others. And, yes, I stole shamelessly from NFL Draft Scout ...

Alex Boone, OT, Ohio State
6-7, 328, rated 21 out of 183 OTs

Positives: Tall tackle prospect with good functional strength and long arms. ... His size and strength makes it tough to bull rush him. ... Has lined up at left and right tackle. ... Agile enough to combo down and then move straight ahead to the middle linebacker. ... Can lock onto defensive ends and keep them out of the play. ... Recognizes blitzes and twists.

Negatives: May need to play right tackle in the pros, as he is more of a mauler than an athlete. ... Lumbers in space, and does not play through the whistle. ... Needs more consistency using his punch to keep pass rushers off balance. ... Does not move his feet or hands quickly enough to handle explosive speed on the edge. ... Also loses his balance when sustaining because he leans too far forward and his hands are not inside the body. ... Plays too upright in pass protection. ... Lacks great flexibility to adjust to oncoming blitzers.

Diyral Briggs, OLB, Bowling Green
6-3, 242, rated 41 out of 193 OLB

Notable: He led the MAC with 9.5 sacks in 2008 and was second in the conference in tackles for loss with 13.5 He finished the year with 60 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and 10 quarterback hurries He had two sacks versus Pittsburgh and a week later had three sacks versus Minnesota. He was named MAC East Defensive Player of the week after recording seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in a 38-10 win at Toledo.

Dobson Collins, WR, Gardner-Webb
6-1, 181, rated 53 out 311 receivers

Notable: Was elected to the All-Big South Conference First Team. Collins led the Big South and ranked No. 7 nationally in receptions per game in 2008, hauling in 76 balls for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns. He had six games with at least 90 yards receiving, and posted four 100-yard games on the year. In Big South games, the Stone Mountain, Ga., native averaged 106.2 yards per game to lead the league in that category.

Pannel Egboh, DE, Stanford
6-6, 267, rated 16 out of 173 DEs

Positives: Legitimate NFL frame. ... Well-built athlete with the frame to add an additional 10-15 pounds without significant loss of quickness. ... At least adequate initial quickness off the snap. ... Uses his long arms well to fend off the blockers and disengage. ... Good key-and-diagnose skills. ... Team defender who understands his responsibility and fights to keep contain. ... Reads the action and has the flexibility to break down in space and make the tackle at the line of scrimmage. ... Good strength. ... Plays with good leverage despite his height and can push the tackle into the quarterback's passing lane. ... Athletic enough to occasionally be used on the zone blitz. ... Four-year starter.

Negatives: Bit of a "tweener." Lacks speed off the edge. Lacks the bulk to be moved inside to defensive tackle. ... Might be best served as a 3-4 defensive end due to his strength in keeping contain and providing an occasional pass rush. ... Good enough athlete to operate in the zone blitz, but lacks the straight-line speed or hip flexibility to make a seamless transition to outside linebacker full-time. ... Broken leg, which ended his 2005 season, must be checked.

Kirby Freeman, QB, Baylor
6-3, 206, not rated

Notable: Freeman transferred from the University of Miami (Fla.) to Mike SIngletary's alma mater. He played in only three games (one start) last season, completing six of 13 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown.

Kyle Howard, OT, Wyoming
6-6, 316, rated 80 out of 183 OTs

Notable: Howard is a three-year starter who played in 43 games, starting 40. He has extensive experience at right tackle and both guard positions.

Matt Huners, G, South Florida
6-3, 303, rated 48 out of 192 guards

Notable: As a senior, Huners started all 12 games this season and 25 in his career. He has graded out as USF's best lineman the past two seasons. At the South Florida team banquet, Huners received the Coaches Award for "recognition of the player who makes a substantive yet recognized contribution; a person whose bravery is unknown or unacknowledged."

Terrail Lambert, CB, Notre Dame
5-10, 188, rated 41 out of 226 cornerbacks

Notable: Might give Sheets a run for his money in a foot race. At Notre Dame's pro day, he ran his 40 in 4.38 and 4.36 seconds, had a 35-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot, 4-inch broad jump, a 4.09 short shuttle, a 6.80 three-cone drill and did 15 bench press reps.

Khalif Mitchell, DE, East Carolina
6-5, 318, rated 25 out of 160 DEs

Positives: Tall with long arms and good upper- and lower-body strength. ... Fluid when running in space. ... Chases down the line and hustles downfield. ... Can push his man into the backfield when gaining leverage one-on-one. ... Uses his length to wrap up ballcarriers after they get into the hole. ... Has the body and athleticism to play defensive end in the 3-4 alignment.

Negatives: Only adequate quickness off the snap. ... Doesn't play to his strength -- gets too upright and lacks the anchor to hold his ground against double teams. ... Must improve his hand play to get off blocks and beat his man in pass rush. ... Leans into his man too much, costing him balance and allowing linemen to use his movement against him. ... Susceptible to cut blocks because of his height, but has the recovery speed to get up and make a tackle. ... Was substituted out in most rushing situations. ... Lacks great awareness and doesn't keep his eyes in the backfield. ... Medical check required on recent injuries.

Kory Sheets, RB, Purdue
5-11, 208, rated 11 out 150 Rbs.

Positives: Lanky build with the room for additional mass without a significant loss of quickness. Quick to the hole. Agile. Can make defenders miss in tight quarters. Quickly gets to top speed and can accelerate through a gap and to the second level. Patient runner who follows his blocks, but can stick his foot in the ground and explode through holes. Good speed for the stretch play. Good vision for the cutback. Despite a lack of prototypical bulk and leg drive, is an extraordinarily effective runner near the goal-line. Good hands out of the backfield. Experienced kick returner with the vision and speed to contribute immediately in this area. Four-year contributor who has never missed a game due to injury. Enjoyed a solid week of practice at the Senior Bowl. Could have been hidden a bit by Purdue's reliance on the passing game and surprise at the next level.

Negatives: Lacks the bulk and lower leg drive necessary for grinding out the tough yards. Only had one season as the team's primary back. Operated out of a spread offense, and will likely be forced to acclimate to a more pro-style offense in the NFL. Marginal effectiveness as a pass blocker. Supplies good effort, but simply lacks the strength to hold up. Complained about the struggles of the rest of the Purdue offense -- specifically quarterback Curtis Painter -- to the press, forcing coach Joe Tiller to ban him from talking to the media at the end of 2008.

Carlos Thomas, CB, South Carolina
5-11, 186, rated 76 out of 226 cornerbacks

Notable: Thomas made 25 starts for the Gamecocks, recording 59 tackles, 12 pass defenses and six interceptions. He started five games last season. Thomas reportedly has run a 4.37 40-yard dash at South Carolina. During his pro day, however, he ran it in 4.51.

Jahi Word-Daniels, CB, Georgia Tech
6-0, 197, rated 39 out of 226 cornerbacks

Positives: Good height, strong build and long arms for the position. ... Relatively smooth flipping his hips for his height. ... Opens his hips to run with quicker receivers down the sideline. ... Uses his length to knock away passes in his area. ... Supports the run and attacks screens on the outside, closing quickly to cut down the ballcarrier.

Negatives: His tackling has been suspect in the past, although he has the size and reach to be effective. ... Typically a cut tackler but will duck his head instead of seeing what he hits. ... Could be dominant as a press cornerback but gives inconsistent effort at the line, whether jamming receivers or as the gunner on special teams. ... Typically plays off to keep the throw in front of him in Tech's defense. ... Stays high and is slow in his pedal. ... Inconsistent hands for the interception. ... Does not defeat blocks of wide receivers often enough, even against smaller players.

-- Matt Barrows

April 30, 2009
Rookies arrive today

The 49ers' draft class has arrived in Santa Clara. Their itinerary includes a physical, a tour of the facilities, a chat with coach Mike Singletary, a rookie dinner and, most importantly, their first media grilling. We spoke to a lot of the players over the phone after they were drafted, but I'll be posting any interesting comments/observations, etc. as the afternoon proceeds. One of the players we haven't spoken with is Ricky Jean-Francois, heretofore RJF. I hear he's a good quote. We shall see ...

First up was Nate Davis, who reiterated that he didn't think he would have an issue picking up the 49ers playbook. Davis said he had a problem reading and writing. The playbook is mostly Xs and Os. "I'm a very visual learner. Reading the playbook -- there's a lot of pictures, so ..." Davis said it took a half a year to pick up the playbook at Ball State but probably a year and a half to really learn it. He said he ran a digit-system offense in high school but not college. Asked to compare himself to an NFL player, Davis aimed high. He likened himself to Donovan McNabb, who, if memory serves, didn't have the highest Wonderlic score in the world, either.

Next was running back Glen Coffee, who said he preferred to play in the NFL at around 218-220 pounds. "They seem to be ok with it," the 209-pound Coffee said of the 49ers coaches. "I feel it will complement my running style." What style is that? "Hard-nosed, one-step, one-cut runner. ... I don't like negative plays." Perfect. Neither do your coaches.

Michael Crabtree also stepped behind the microphone. Like the other rookies, Crabtree had just returned from a physical, and he joked that it felt like he had had 35 physicals in the last couple of weeks. The 49ers also gave him a physical when he visited prior to the draft. The most recent physical, Crabtree said, will help trainers set a timetable for when he can return to the field. The receiver will be limited to mental reps at this weekend's rookie minicamp. The fashion-minded Crabtree was decked out in Air Jordan shoes, Air Jordan shorts and Air Jordan warm-up jacket. I'm sure Reebok is drafting a strongly worded letter in response. ... There's no debating that Crabtree had excellent hands at Texas Tech. But they're not particularly big mitts. According to NFL.com, Crabtree's hands measure 9 1/4 inches, which means they're smaller than Alex Smith's.

After Crabtree was linebacker Scott McKillop. What a diva! Just kidding -- McKillop is about as down to earth as they come. He's definitely not physically imposing. The 49ers are wondering if he has the toughness to play the "Ted" linebacker position. The coaches will be happy to know that McKillop already took a sneak peek at what the Ted and "Mike" linebackers do in the San Francisco system, and he plans on starting a cramming session when he gets to the hotel tonight. McCkillop also seemed smitten with Patrick Willis, whom he remembers watching when WIllis was playing with that club on his hand at Ole Miss. In a perfect world, McKillop will be playing alongside Willis for the next decade or so. (Once Takeo Spikes moves on). "I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to meet Patrick WIllis," McKillop said. "I'm pretty excited about that."

To give you some insight into tight end Bear Pascoe, I'll describe how he began his interview. First he shook hands (mine still hurts) with each of the beatwriters. Then he set aside the hat and sunglasses he was wearning and the toothpick he was gnawing on before proceding. In other words, Pascoe is truly old school. You also could describe Pascoe as a rule changer. During his college career, he blocked six kicks, three of them when the player behind him gave him a boost. Pascoe estimated the assistance gave him an extra 10 inches or so on his vertical jump. The NCAA has since prohibited that practice. Pascoe said he has already spoken with Mike Singletary and the coach has said he'll make his mark this year as a blocking tight end.

Now RJF ... Wow. Someone else already has written this but I will triple underscore it: I can't wait for the first time Vernon Davis has to block Ricky Jean-Francois.RJF today described himself as someone who speaks his mind -- in the interview room, in the locker room, on the field. "If there's something that needs to be heard, I'm not going to bite my tongue. I'm a straight-forward person," RJF said. Having said that, RJF admits that that trait has rubbed people the wrong way in the past. It was also topic No. 1 when he was conducting pre-draft interviews with teams, and he said that his reputation is what sunk his draft status

I asked him if he likes to get under his opponent's skin on the field. "I got to. I love doing that on the field. I like to get under the skin, even if it's the opponent's team's coaches. If I can get close to the sideline, you're going to hear my mouth close to the sideline. It happened on and off the field. But now, coming to another level, I have to learn how to control that. I've got to learn how to change certain things about myself."

Asked if he feels he has something to prove to the teams that passed over him on draft day, RJF said, "I've got a lot to prove ... teams passing me by, I've got a lot to prove. One thing I want to prove is all the rumors that were out on blog sites that some people told some NFL coaches ... about my personality. The first thing I want to prove is my personality. Plus, when I need to talk and when I don't need to talk. When I need to sit down and when I need to listen straight forward and learn how to take advice from veterans, learn how to take advice from coaches, position coaches, trainers, anything."

Rounding out the interviews was RJF's LSU teammate Curtis Taylor, who said he didn't hear much from Jean-Francois on the field. "I'm in back of him, so I really don't know what he said ... He's a good guy, though," Taylor said. Taylor is a big safety with long arms, and I wonder if the 49ers see him as a strong safety. Taylor played free safety for the Tigers, but he said the safety spots were interchangeable as they are with the 49ers. Taylor seemed like a nice, personable guy. Like all the other picks, he's also maddeningly young (or maybe I'm getting maddeningly old). Asked about the greatest safety of all, Ronnie Lott, Taylor admitted he didn't know much: "I've seen him on ESPN Classic," Taylor said. "... I've heard a lot of stories about him." Kids these days ...

-- Matt Barrows

April 29, 2009
Peppers on the table

Now that the draft is over, the 49ers will trade for:

A. Braylon Edwards
B. Anquan Boldin
C. Julius Peppers
D. None of the above.

The correct outcome likely will be D. But C makes an awful lot of sense. Consider the following: The 49ers did not select an outside linebacker/pass rusher in the draft nor did they pick one up in free agency. Peppers, meanwhile, had 14 ½ sacks last year and has made no secret that he not only wants out of Carolina but would prefer to play for a team that uses a 3-4 defense. Paging coach Manusky ...

But wait, there's more. The Panther's have made a franchise tender offer that would pay Peppers a whopping $16.683 million in 2009. Peppers doesn't want to sign it and the Panthers have been hamstrung, salary-cap wise, because of it. The team is holding a three-day minicamp this weekend and no one in the organization is sure whether Peppers will show up. Meanwhile the 49ers shopped lightly in free agency this year and still have plenty of salary-cap space, certainly enough to ink Peppers, 29, to a long-term deal.

I don't know whether the 49ers are seriously considering Peppers. And I don't know whether they even envision Peppers as a stand-up, 3-4 outside linebacker. What I do know is that the two GM's, Scot McCloughan and Marty Hurney, already have made a deal this week. McCloughan gave Hurney his second- and fourth-round picks Sunday for Hurney's first rounder next year. The Panthers used the second rounder to draft a ... wait for it ... pass rusher, Florida State's Everette Brown. It's not a stretch to view Brown as Peppers' eventual replacement.

What will it take to pry Peppers from the Panthers? Probably a first-round pick coupled with some combination of other draft picks and/or players. The Panthers don't have a first rounder next year because of their trade with the 49ers. The 49ers, meanwhile, have two first rounders. Could they give one of them right back to Carolina for Peppers? Like I said, it makes an awful lot of sense.

-- Matt Barrows

April 28, 2009
Niners draft class: How they fit

WR Michael Crabtree, No. 15. Crabtree lined up at several positions at Texas Tech. The 49ers envision him as the "X" receiver. That's the receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage. The "Z" receiver lines up behind the line of scrimmage. That means, the "X" needs to be physical enough to run through the jam of the cornerback facing him. The conundrum for the 49ers is that good-looking second-year player Josh Morgan also is a natural "X" receiver. The "Z" receivers as it stands now, are Isaac Bruce and Brandon Jones. The "Y" or slot receivers are Jason Hill and Arnaz Battle. It seems more plausible that an "X" can play "Z" than vice versa. So if Morgan and Crabtree are the two best receivers on the team, it stands to reason that one of them could be moved to "Z." My prediction: The starting receivers in the opening game will be Bruce and Morgan with Crabtree being worked into the lineup until he's comfortable. After that ...????

RB Glen Coffee, No. 29. It's too soon to predict how many carries Coffee will see in a game. That depends on how he looks in training camp and how quickly he picks up the offense. Two things are clear, however: That Frank Gore is still the lead back and that the 49ers want to make sure he is still fresh at the end of the season and ... dare we dream? ... into the playoffs. The addition of Purdue's Kory Sheets also makes things interesting. With Sheets, who can score from anywhere on the field, you begin to wonder whether the 49ers eventually will have a three-headed beast similar to the New York Giants' 2008 triumvirate of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. Their carries last year looked like this: Jacobs 219; Ward 182; Bradshaw 67. What does this mean for Michael Robinson and Thomas Clayton? Robinson is now the captain of the special teams who likely will have a role in Wildcat formations. Clayton? If he didn't see any PT in previous seasons, it's very difficult to envision it now ...

ILB Scott McKillop, No. 56. The personnel department was absolutely beaming over this pick. Ideally, McKillop eventually will take over for Takeo Spikes, 32, at "Ted" linebacker. Spikes signed a two-year deal last month. As we've learned over the last two seasons, "Ted" linebacker is a hard position to fill. If McKillop can't do it, he projects to a key special teamer who backs up Patrick Willis at "Mike" linebacker.

QB Nate Davis, No. 7. Who knows, maybe dropping all the way to the bottom of the fifth round will end up being a blessing for Davis. It almost guarantees that Davis will be brought along slowly. For some quarterbacks, being thrown into the fire too quickly can be disastrous for their careers. (See: 11, No.) To hear Mike Singletary tell, it seems as if new quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson was integral in Davis' selection. That is, Johnson's judgment that Davis indeed could pick up the offense and be effective prompted the pick. How soon can Davis be expected to play, Singletary was asked: "I've just got to get him in and see how he responds to the playbook, see how he responds to coaching, particularly how he responds to Mike Johnson. And then it's just a matter of if Mike goes through the process of, 'Here's the technique, here's what we have to do here. Here's the way your feet have to be.' So it just depends how soon and how quickly will he be able to adapt to that."

TE Bear Pascoe, No. 48. The first time this guy catches a touchdown pass - third and goal, fake handoff, quick pass to Pascoe - he will become a fan favorite. How can you not like a tight end named Bear? Pascoe takes over the role of blocking tight end from Billy Bajema. But unlike Bajema, who had as many receptions in the last three seasons as I have ears, Pascoe can block and catch. He caught 112 passes for 1,294 yards at Fresno State. Crabtree, Coffee and Pascoe figure to see the most playing time this season.

S Curtis Taylor, No. 28. The free safety is known as the quarterback of the defense, and like the quarterback it's unreasonable to think a seventh-round free safety can play right away. However, if Taylor shows promise in training camp, it will help add depth to a thin position and might prompt the 49ers to move Reggie Smith back to the position at which they originally considered him, quarterback CORNERback.

DL Ricky Jean-Francois, No. 95. RJF gets TBC's old number. Given his draft position, Jean-Francois could end up being the steal of the 2009 draft. Here's a guy who showed flashes of brilliance on the best college team in the nation over the past few seasons. Jean-Francois projects to right defensive end but he said he can play any of the positions on a 3-4 line. The 49ers will be curious to see if he has any potential as a nose tackle. How many defensive linemen will the 49ers keep? Jean-Francois might have to beat out Ray McDonald to make the squad.

-- Matt Barrows

April 27, 2009
Niners draft weekend: mission accomplished

Stating that a team had an excellent draft is a little like predicting a toddler will grow up to be a brain surgeon. There might be hints of future greatness, but you never really know. (Sorry, mom). But if I was forced to put a grade on the 49ers' draft, it would be pretty close to perfect, maybe even an A. Sure, the team didn't address two of the positions, offensive tackle and pass-rushing linebacker, officials had cited as needs in the offseason. But if they had, it might have meant they were reaching for players who didn't fit into their plan.

What do I mean? In the days leading up to the draft, I watched at lot of NFL Network. One of the more intriguing features was one in which former GMs Charley Casserly and Michael Lombardi talked about the best drafts they had been a part of. Casserely picked the Redskins' 1981 draft, one that brought in two of the Hogs, Russ Grimm and Mark May, as well as Dexter Manley, receiver Charlie Brown and tight end Clint Didier. Lombardi spoke about the 49ers' famous 1986 draft, the one in which Bill Walsh and John McVay found John Taylor, Tom Rathman, Tim McKyer and Charles Haley.

The theme of both drafts was that the two teams had a well-defined plan going into the draft and stuck to it throughout. The teams targeted very specific players, players who fit their profile. If they thought they could get those players later in the draft, they simply traded down. "Before we finally selected a player, we had collected three third-round picks, three fourth-round picks and a first-round pick in the 1987 draft," Lombardi said. "Walsh conducted a clinic that day, moving around the draft, but the real success came in the players we picked."

The 49ers seem to have accomplished that essential task this weekend. Ever since he took over the 49ers, Mike Singletary has been preaching toughness. He wants players who don't make mental mistakes, who don't turn the ball over, who take over games in the fourth quarter. Each of the players drafted this weekend fit that mold, beginning with Michael Crabtree. The only way the 49ers would have used a first-round pick on a receiver is if that receiver A.) was a playmaker. B.) had size C.) was physical D.) could block downfield. Crabtree goes four for four on that list.

The other players also fit nicely into that tough-minded mold. Running back Glen Coffee was described over and over as a downhill runner. When GM Scot McCloughan watched him on tape, he thought he was looking at a much bigger man. Coffee weighs about 210 pounds. In a few years, McCloughan said, Coffee will be up around 220.

Scot McKillop is the ultimate blue-collar player. He wrestled and played football at a small high school and had only one scholarship offer - from Pitt. He is as gritty as they come. When players started emerging from the pile at the Senior Bowl, McKillop was invariably at the bottom with his arms wrapped around the ball carrier. The 49ers are hoping he will be the heir to the "Ted" linebacker position who will pair with Patrick Willis for the next decade or so.

Bear Pascoe was working in the barn on his parents' farm when the 49ers called to say they were going to draft him. Pascoe described himself as having a high threshold for pain. Pain tolerance? What kind of draft pick talks about that topic? A tough guy, that's who.

Even the quarterback seems to fit the blue-collar mold. McCloughan described Nate Davis as having a strong arm and a sturdy lower body, one that can remain planted as the pocket breaks down and defenders flail about at his legs. Davis also comes to the 49ers with a massive chip on his shoulder. Once considered a top QB candidate, Davis suffered the double indignity of having just one team - the nearby Indianapolis Colts - show up at his pro day workout at Ball State and then falling to one of the final picks in the fifth round. Yes, the 49ers must bring their new quarterback along slowly. But his skill set just might make Davis worth the wait.

-- Matt Barrows

April 26, 2009
Niners to address OT/OLB with undrafted FAs

Let the post-draft free agency period begin ... Day 3 of the draft - when teams hit the phones to sign priority free agents - already has begun. GM Scot McCloughan said the team usually signs eight to 12 undrafted free agents, "if we get lucky, a little more than 12."

It was notable that the 49ers did not draft either an offensive lineman or an outside linebacker in the draft despite the fact those are two areas of need for the team. McCloughan hinted that that could change as the team reels in free agents. Those players typically agree to terms tonight, have the actual contracts faxed to them tomorrow and the team announces the deal Tuesday.

Sometimes, however, word leaks out early as it did with speedy Purdue running back Kory Sheets, who visited the 49ers prior to the draft. KFFL.com reported that along with Stanford DE Pannel Egboh, Ohio State OT Alex Boone and Georgia Tech CB Jahi Word-Daniels. The 6-6 Egboh projects as a 3-4 defensive end.

-- Matt Barrows

April 26, 2009
Day 2 Niners draft tracker

3:59 p.m. The 49ers just ended their draft with .... drum roll, please ... ****RICKY JEAN-FRANCOIS of LSU ***** Maybe my mom was right. Maybe I am special.

At 6-2 1/2, 295 pounds, Francois projects to defensive end for the 49ers. Here's what NFL Draft Scout says about him:

Positives: Tall, but can still use leverage to bull rush his man into the pocket. ... Violent with his hands, able to rip off blocks inside to make plays on the ball. ... Impressive in his ability to stand his man up and discard him to either side. ... Rarely gets moved when facing a one-on-one block. ... Moves fluidly down the line, able to eat up a wide running lane with his length. ... Recognizes the screen. ... Imposing figure when closing, will work toward the quarterback if he's in sight. ... Impacts passing lanes and can block kicks using his height and reach.


Negatives: A bit lean for some NFL defensive coordinators, but not considerably light. ... High pad level allows double-team blocks to sweep him aside. ... Inconsistent initial quickness off the snap and he guesses the snap count at times. ... Could hustle and chase the ball more often. ... Not quick enough to keep off a cut block, but recovers well. ... Does not consistently play to his timed speed, lumbering in space and lacking elite stop-start quickness.

Compares To: JON BRADLEY, Detroit -- Jean Francois has exceptional playing strength, but has failed to live up to his lofty press clippings. He has had academic issues, off-field problems and an overall inconsistent performance on the field. He can easily shed blocks and power through the line, but lacks focus. He runs his mouth more than Warren Sapp, but with 56 tackles in 25 games, it is obvious he can't back up his bold comments. Unless someone feels that they have patient veterans to mentor him, it is doubtful that he will live up to his own opinion of himself.

3:00 p.m. In the seventh round, the 49ers choose ***** FS Curtis Taylor out of LSU ******** Taylor is 6-2, 207 and -- here's why he fell to the 7th round -- ran his 40 in 4.64 seconds. There's a strong possibility that this LSU safety could bump another LSU safety, Mark Roman, off the roster.

curtis.jpg

Positives: Long, chiseled frame. ... Prototype size for the position -- rangy and athletic. ... Reads the field well and reacts quickly to the action. ... Good straight-line speed and range in coverage. ... Has natural hands for the interception and times his leaps well to pluck the ball at its highest point. ... Competitive. ... Has long arms and strength to wrap up tacklers. ... Flashes explosive hitting ability.


Negatives: Can be too aggressive and can be tricked by effective play-action. ... Takes poor angles in run support and when attacking receivers in the open field. ... Is not a physical intimidator. ... Will go for the hit instead of the secure tackle or interception. ... Tight in the hips and is best when coming straight into the action. ... Lacks the change-of-direction agility to handle running backs or receivers one-on-one in the open field.

2:07 p.m. Singletary just spoke about the teams Day 2 draft picks:

On Glen Coffee ... Singletary underscored that Frank Gore is "the guy" in the team's offense and that Coffee would be used in a complentary role. He described Gore as a slasher-type running back whereas Coffee is a more downhill runner. Is he concerned that, at 209 pounds, Coffee would have durability issues with a downhill style? "If he had to be an every-down guy -- yes, I would."

On Scott McKillop ... Singletary noted that McKillop also was a backup longsnapper and would be a great addition on special teams. He said that McKillop could play either Ted or Mike linebacker. I'm sure the 49ers are hoping it's the former.

On Nate Davis ....Singletary said he was pleased when Davis immediately revealed his learning disability. "I feel like this: If someone has a learning disability, the most important thing thing for the coach that's coaching him is that he finds out." Singletary revealed that at the beginning of the college season, there was a sentiment around 49ers headquarters that Davis could be the No. 1 pick in the draft. (That's before Davis nose-dived in his last two games). It did not sound as if Singletary expected Davis to see playing time anytime soon. I asked him if there was a chance the team could keep four quarterbacks on the roster. "Don't know -- can't answer it at this point," he said.

On Bear Pascoe ... Said Singletary: "I think he's a tough, hard-nosed guy and that he's going to give you everything he has." He called Pascoe a "definite upgrade" over Billy Bajema, who now plays for the Rams. Pascoe on his nickname: "That's what I tell everybody when they ask me about the name Bear -- I came out (of his mother's womb) growling and ready to fight." Pascoe is from Portersville and was calling from the barn on his family's 30-acre farm.

1:25 p.m. With their first pick in the sixth round, the 49ers selected ******TE Bear Pascoe of Fresno State ****** Pascoe was a big part of the Bulldogs' passing game, but he'll be a blocker, a la Billy Bajema, in the 49ers' system.

bear.jpg

Barrows had Pascoe, 6-5, 251, going in the seventh round in his Fearless Friday Forecast, which, by the way, needs to be freakin' framed. Singletary is going to talk about the picks the team has made thus far, so I'll be back in a few minutes. Here's what NFL Draft Scout has to say about Pascoe:

Positives: Good frame for the position. Good bulk and overall strength as a blocker. Uses his hands and leverage well as a blocker and provides as much effort as a blocker as he does as a receiver. Puts smaller defenders on their back and plays through the whistle. Able to reach linebackers at the second level. Former quarterback who understands where the holes are on the defense. Solid route-running in the short to intermediate zones. Uses his body to shield defenders. Natural hands catcher who can who fight for the ball and can track over his shoulder. Bullish runner who fights for extra yardage.


Negatives: Not an elite athlete in the Kellen Winslow mold. Lacks the straight-line speed to threaten the seam against NFL talent. Takes a few steps to get to top speed. Flashes the ability to make tough receptions with defenders draped over him, but needs to continue to work in this area. Leans forward when blocking, and needs to improve his balance facing stronger defenders. Defensive backs use their quickness to elude him while blocking in the open field.

Compares To: KRIS MANGUM, ex-Carolina -- It is fitting that he is compared to a retired player, as Pascoe is an old school type of tight end, one that does a good job of blocking in-line and is used as a safety valve receiver underneath. He is not the type to threaten the seam and you will find most other tight ends in the draft able to outrace him, but he has the intangibles - a blue collar work ethic, tough as nails and willing to sacrifice himself to make the play.

12:58 p.m. At one point, people were talking about Davis as if he was a second-round pick. Then, all of a sudden, Davis was the QB nobody wanted. Only one team, the nearby Indianapolis Colts, showed up at his pro day. Davis said he thought he fell because of a learning disability. He said he had a problem reading and writing but that it only manifested itself in the classroom, not in the football meeting room or on the field. In fact, the 49ers flew him to Santa Clara in the weeks leading up to the draft to figure out whether that learning disability was prohibitive. Quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson had Davis chart plays on the whitebord. The session had to have gone well -- the 49ers just made him a fifth-round pick.

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12:43 p.m. The media trailer is going nuts. The 49ers just used their second fifth-round pick on ****** Ball State quarterback Nate Davis ******* Davis became a favorite of the 49ers beatwriters because he always seemed to be playing on Thursday night when we were working in the media trailer. We also liked the fact that he doesn't need to line his fingers onto the laces to throw the ball -- he just wings it. In fact, Davis said he prefers to throw without the laces, something he picked up as a shotgun QB in high school. I have a feeling QB coach Mike Johnson might try to rid him of that habit.

Check out whom NFL Draft Scout compares Davis to:

Positives: Not tall, but has all other physical tools scouts want in a quarterback. Quick setup and delivery. Over-the-top throwing motion with an efficient release. Very good arm strength. Legitimate NFL accuracy to all levels of the field. Sets his feet and can drive the deep out from the opposite hash with ease. Good touch in the intermediate and deep. Throws a catchable ball with enough loft to allow his receivers to catch it in space and create yardage after the catch. Good mobility in the pocket to buy time and keep plays alive.


Negatives: Shorter than scouts would like. Big numbers were byproduct of spread system. Will have to adjust to taking traditional snaps under center. Struggled against non-MAC foes, including Tulsa in the GMAC Bowl. Plays with gloves on both hands and throws the ball without the laces. Has resisted coaches' attempts to change how he throws the ball. Documented learning disability and might struggle with a complicated NFL playbook.

Compares To: ALEX SMITH, San Francisco -- Davis is a combination of Alex Smith and -- because of his athletic skills -- Baltimore's Troy Smith, undersized passers who rely on their quickness, balance and feet to make big plays on the move. Davis is in the same situation as Alex Smith in that he would've greatly benefited from an additional year in college. If he is drafted into a rebuilding situation without a standout receiver or offensive line, Davis could quickly regress as Alex Smith did. How teams choose to handle Davis in his early NFL career will be critical. He could be devoured by unfriendly media and some are concerned that his last three performances, with Ball State aiming for an undefeated season and Davis looking to the NFL, showed he can't handle immense pressure.


12:24 p.m. For the next pick I predicted -- on Friday morning, mind you -- Wash State WR Brandon Gibson. Given the Michael Crabtree pick yesterday, my precog pick now is .... LSU DE Ricky-Jean Francois.

11:49 a.m. As was the case with Coffee, after takling to McKillop, you can see why the 49ers liked him. With Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes the established starters, a guy like McKillop will have to play a lot of special teams. "I know a lot of people say they love special teams, but I truly love special teams," said McKillop who was a special teamer for two seasons at Pitt while backing up H.B. Blades.

McKillop said he came from a small high school in Pennsylvania and only had one scholarship offer, from Pitt. And he admits that he plays with a chip on his shoulder. "People are always doubting me," he said. The question for Mike Singletary and GM Scot McCloughan later today will be whether McKillop is a Ted (probable) or a Mike (worst-case scenario) linebacker.

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11:32 a.m. ***** 49ers take Pitt inside linebacker Scott McKillop ***** with their first pick in the fifth round. Yes, Barrows nailed it. This is a great pick. McKillop doesn't look pretty but he is uncanny in that he always ends up with the ball carrier in his arms.

McKillop measures up at 6-0, 244. He finished with 137 tackles as a senior and was a tackling machine at the Senior Bowl as well. Here's what NFL Draft Scout says about him:

Positives: Productive, instinctual player who sorts through the trash to get to the ballcarrier, seems to have an innate sense of how and when to slide through oncoming blockers. ... Very good backfield awareness, always seems to know where the ball is. ... Recognizes tight ends going out on delayed routes. ... Breaks down well in space and makes secure tackles in the open field. ... Can get to the outside to meet the back at the edge. ... Drops quickly and hustles to meet receivers in intermediate routes. ... Gets a good hit on slot receivers to knock them off their route. ... Knows where the sticks are and tries his best to keep underneath receivers from getting there. ...


Negatives: Only adequately developed in the upper and lower body. ... Does not have great speed to chase plays from behind, but generally makes up for it by taking good angles. ... Lacks physicality and runs around blocks instead of taking them on. ... Unable to get off blocks when engaged and is more of a catcher than a hard-hitter or fierce tackler. ... Is not explosive off the snap when blitzing.

Compares To: ZACH THOMAS, Kansas City -- McKillop is slightly bigger than Thomas, but both rely on their field vision, intelligence and quickness to gain advantage on the blocker in order to compensate for a lack of ideal size. The Pitt linebacker is a classic knee bender who plays in good football position, as he always seems to be on his feet working through trash. He a smart playmaker who reacts decisively and can step up, stay square and take on/shed the bigger blockers with good force. He has that quick reactionary ability to fill holes and make plays in-line and even at his size, blockers struggle in attempts to contain him at the point of attack.

11:01 a.m. These are the guys I'm thinking about to the 49ers in the fifth round: How 'bout LSU ILB Darry Beckwith or Pitt ILB Scott McKillop? Or maybe this is the round where the 49ers draft a QB. Nate Davis and Rhett Bomar are still on the board.

10:45 a.m. You can start to see patterns emerging in how Scot McCloughan drafts. He seems to like interior linemen (Baas, Rachal) in the second and running backs (Frank & Beans) in the third. Does that mean he'll go for a pass-rushing OLB (Haralson, ?) in the fifth?

9:35 a.m. EUREKA!!! I've got the nickname .... Frank and Beans!!! Click here for the perfect jumbotron video after a F&B touchdown.

9:26 a.m. A backfield of Gore and Coffee -- there has to be a good nickname somewhere. Maiocco has come up with "ground coffee" but I think we can do better.

8:45 a.m. This has to be music to Mike Singletary's ears. In a conference call, Coffee said of himself: "I love contact ...If I see you in the hole, I won't think twice about lowering my head." Coffee played at Alabama at around 210 pounds. But he said he thought he could put on more weight in the NFL. "I think I'd like to put on more pounds, and I can carry more pounds. I'd like to get up to 220, 218 (pounds)."

7:45 a.m. ****** 49ers select Alabama running back Glen Coffee****** Coffee fits the 49ers mold of "good player from good school" but he isn't exactly the big back they were foreshadowing. Coffee is 6-0, 209 pounds, which is pretty much Frank Gore's dimensions. (Coffee is a little taller).

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NFL Draft Scout describes Coffee, who ran for 1,383 yards and 10 TDs last year, as someone who can both run between the tackles and break a long run.

Positives: Well-built athlete. A bit of a slasher. Sees the hole and shows surprising burst to it, considering his height. Can make defenders miss in the open field, but seems to prefer physically taking them on at times. Lowers his shoulder into the defender and looks to intimidate. Runs with a chip on his shoulder. Good acceleration through the second level of the defense and into the open field. At least adequate straight-line speed. Good vision at the second level for the cutback. Experienced receiver out of the backfield. Good upper-body strength and effort as a pass blocker. Has been a weight room monster since high school. Has matured during his college career, and is now a faith-driven leader and sought-after speaker in the community.


Negatives: Has a bit of an odd build for a running back. Thin hips, and though well built he lacks the bulk in his core and lower body that scouts prefer for a power runner. Runs a bit upright, which just adds to the concern regarding his build and power-running. Likes to run over defenders, but too often goes down on contact. Suspended for four games in 2007 as part of an Alabama textbook scandal. Redshirted 2006 with a knee injury.

7:40 a.m. DE's Matt Shaughnessy and Michael Johnson have just been taken. Do the 49ers take Lawrence Sidbury?

7:19 a.m. Chicago takes San Jose State DE Jarron Gilbert. That guy can jump out of the pool.

7:08 a.m. The Jets make running back Shonn Greene the No. 1 pick of Day 2. I thought this guy would have been a perfect pick for the 49ers. I believe Rashad Jennings and Andre Brown are still available.

7 a.m. So this is what 7 a.m. looks like ... So, the 49ers go into today with six picks -- one 3rd, two 5ths, one sixth and two sevenths. I can almost guarantee one of them will be used on a blocking tight end now that Billy Bajema is gone. I'd expect a pass-rushing linebacker and an offensive linemen, too.

April 25, 2009
Niners trade second-round pick

The 49ers have traded their second-round pick, no. 43 overall, and their fourth-round pick, No. 111 overall, to Carolina for the Panthers' first-round pick next year. If the 49ers don't re-acquire a second-round pick, they are done for the day. The team now has six picks tomorrow -- a third, two fifths, a sixth and two sevenths. The Panthers used the 43rd pick to select Everette Brown, a pass-rush specialist out of Florida State. One pick later, the Dolphins chose West Virginia QB Pat White.

GM Scot McCloughan said that within five picks of No. 43, there were two players the 49ers would have taken. Both players were selected, and when Carolina offered their first rounder next year, it was too good to pass up. Who were the two players? McCloughan wouldn't say, but my guess is that they were LB Rey Maualuga and Arizona OT Eben Britton.

As for Michael Crabtree, McCloughan said that he thought that Jacksonville might take him at No. 8 but that Green Bay would pass on him given their depth at the position. McCloughan said he was willing to listen to offers but "it would have to have been the trade of the century" to pry Crabtree from the 49ers. "He's the closest thing that I've seen to Anquan Boldin in college," McCloughan said. "He's highly competitive ... that's not afriad whatsoever." In case you're wondering, the 49ers have spoken internally about Boldin, who is on the trade block, but that the Cardinals won't deal him in the division.

McCloughan said he saw Crabtree as an X or split-end receiver. That receiver needs to be more physical -- Crabtree's forte -- and it's the spot where Josh Morgan currently lines up. McCloughan said he had no problem having two young, promising players at the same spot. The two "z" receivers are Isaac Bruce and Brandon Jones. Jason Hill typically lines up in the slot.

-- Matt Barrows

April 25, 2009
Mangini not welcome in Lubbock

Just got off the phone with Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. I think it's safe to say that Leach has crossed Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini off his Christmas Card list. This is what I mean: Leach had just gotten on a conference call when he described his pupil, new 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, as someone who fled from the spotlight and as someone without "a bunch of distractions going on." That, of course, is the polar opposite of how Crabtree's been portrayed in the last few weeks. Leach obviously believed that rumors as to Crabtree's diva-ish behavior orginated in Cleveland with the Browns head coach.

"Michael Crabtree has been more successful as a receiver than that guy has a coach at this point," Leach said. " ... Part of the reason is he's (Crabtree) too shy to be like that."

Said Leach: "My definition of a diva is someone who's loud and self-absorbed. Michael Crabtree is the furthest thing from loud that I've seen."

As evidence, Leach noted that the tape he had on Crabtree blocking in the running game was better than the tape of Crabtree making catches. "I think it's one of the strongest parts of the game," Leach said. "I mean, to the point where it's impressive."

Leach described Crabtree as the "ultimate team player who would serve the 49ers well." As for Mangini? "Let's see how all those non-divas do up in Cleveland this year," Leach said.

-- Matt Barrows

April 25, 2009
Niners nab Crabtree with 10th pick

The 49ers haven't had a big-play wide receiver since Terrell Owens stormed out of San Francisco. They may have found his replacement. The team today used its No. 10 draft pick on Michael Crabtree, the prolific Texas Tech receiver who was the consensus No. 1 receiver in the nation this past season. In two seasons at Texas Tech, Crabtree caught 231 passes for 3,127 yards and - most impressively - 41 touchdowns. Crabtree stands 6-1 and what makes him attractive to the 49ers is that he weighs 214 pounds. The 49ers like their receivers to be more than 200 pounds.

Coach Mike Singletary said the 49ers were surprised that Crabtree, 21, fell that far. The 49ers had Crabtree as the No. 1 receiver in the draft and one of the top players, Singletary said. "We had no idea that he would be there at 10. It's one of the last scenarios we thought we'd end with."

Rumors of diva-ish behavior had been attached to Crabtree in the days leading up to the draft. Singletary, however, said the team did its homework on the young receiver and were not scared off. Part of that research was conducted by Singletary, a North Texas native, on Crabtree, who grew up in Dallas. Singletary said he got a good report on Crabtree from Deion Sanders, another Dallas area resident, who trained with Crabtree prior to the combine. Asked if teams wanted a No. 1 wideout to have a bit of attitude, Singletary said, "I just think it's one of those things nowadays when you've got great players you get a little attitude with them. ... A little swagger is fine with me." Crabtree also was asked about his reputation. "I have no idea (where that came from)," he said in a conference call. "Poeple like to put receivers in a certain category."

During the combine, doctors discovered that Crabtree had a stress fracture in his foot. He had surgery shortly thereafter to repair it, and he hasn't been able to run for teams before the draft. Singletary, however, said that Crabtree's game tape not only showed he could get open but that he could pull away from defensive backs. "He knows how to use his body. He has exceptional hands. And he's running away from people at the same time."

Singletary said Crabtree probably could take part only in the walk-throughs of the team's upcoming minicamp but that he'd be ready for training camp. Where would he play? That's undetermined, but Singletary isn't worried. "He's going to have to earn his way on (the field). But the most important thing is that we know we have a playmaker." Crabtree said that his foot was fine and that he'd begin running soon. He agreed with Singletary that he'd be ready for training camp.

Crabtree will join a receiver rotation that already has good-looking second-year player Josh Morgan and third-year player Jason Hill. He also will benefit from the tutelage of veteran Isaac Bruce. The caveat about Crabtree is that he was dealing with a stress fracture to his foot over the past two months and has been unable to show how fast he is. The Raiders may have allowed Crabtree to join the 49ers when they took receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey out of Maryland with the 7th pick. The Jaguars used the eight pick on offensive tackle Eugene Monroe while the Packers, who are transitioning to a 3-4 defense, selected nose tackle B.J. Raji.

Singletary was asked whether the 49ers considered receiver Jeremy Maclin or offensive tackle Michael Oher at No. 10 instead of Crabtree. As for Maclin, Singletray said the 49ers rated Crabtree as the No. 1 receiver. And Oher? "Absolutely a thought," he said. "You know for me -- that was absolutely a thought." Oher ended up being drafted at No. 23 to Baltimore; Maclin went 19th to Philadelphia.

-- Matt Barrows

April 25, 2009
Cherry red uniforms ... with modern tweaks

Just got back from the big uniform unveiling at the Santa Clara Convention Center. As COO Andy Dolich put it, the design was meant "to build a bridge to the past." In that vein, the team has retained the cherry red color from the 1980s, Joe Montana-era duds as well as the three stripes on the sleeve. The facemask on the helmet is gray instead the red on the most recent uniforms. Gone is the black shadowing on the numbers. Overall, it's a cleaner, crisper more classic look.

But the uniforms are not identical to the Montana dud or the throwbacks the team has been wearning twice a year the last few seasons. The stripes on the sleeves are more narrow -- players these days don't like long sleeves -- and the number is on top of the shoulder pad instead of on the sleeve. The team also retained the same color gold of the most recent uniforms. "It produced more texture and depth ... the players really liked it," explained director marketing Michael Williams. The stripes on the pants aren't as broad as the throwbacks -- flexibility issues -- and the team retained the black outline on the helmet. There's an NFL logo just below the neckline. Directly below that is the word "49ERS."



04252009110 from http://sparrow280.vox.com/

The uniforms are two years in the making. Williams said a combination of input of fan focus groups, players, alumni, owner Jed York and, of course, Reebok created the uniforms.

April 25, 2009
NFL pick-by-pick draft tracker

32. Pittsburgh. DT Evander Hood. The Steelers build up the interior of an aging defensive front.

31. Arizona. RB Chris Wells. Yikes. This position was an obvious weakness on the team that went to the SB last year.

30. Tennessee. WR Kenny Britt. Britt replaces Brandon Jones.

29. Giants. WR Hakeem Nicks. I thought they'd go with the anti-Plexico in Brian Robiskie. Nicks isn't bad, either. Did you see that bowl game?

28. Buffalo. C Eric Wood. Thought the Bills would go for an o-lineman, but didn't think it would be a center.

27. Indianapolis. RB Donald Brown. Didn't see him going ahead of Beanie. Brown is the first UConn player taken in the first round.

26. Packers. LB Clay Matthews. Ted Thompson continues to build his 3-4 defense.

25. Miami. CB Vontae Davis. Vernon's little brother heads to South Florida. The two won't play each other until 2012 in San Francisco (provided neither one is traded).

24. Atlanta. DT Peria Jerry. I think I may have nailed this one, but to tell the truth I can't remember.

23. Baltimore. OT Michael Oher. Singletary admits that he considered this guy at No. 10. But the Crabtree pick had to have b een a no brainer.

22. Minnesota. WR Percy Harvin. So much for that hazy freefall. Childress makes his stand with this pick.

21. Cleveland. C Alex Mack. The Dogpound is going to love the Cal center.

20. Detroit. TE Brandon Pettigrew. Man, I was pretty confident an OT would go here. The next-best thing is the guy who plays next to the OT.

19. Philadelphia. WR Jeremy Maclin. Maclin, Jackson, Curtis ... what is this, the return of the Smurfs?

18. Denver. OLB Robert Ayers. Nolan will love this guy.

17. Tampa Bay. QB Josh Freeman. I nailed this pick ... except that I had the Jets taking him.

16. San Diego. LB Larry English. Niners fans were hoping for this guy in the second round.

15. Houston. LB Brian Cushing. But can he rush the passer?

14. New Orleans. CB/S Malcolm Jenkins. Phew. At least I got this right. Thanks, Trips ...

13. Washington. DE Brian Orakpo. The Redskins use a 4-3 defense and that's probably where Orakpo fits best.

12. Denver. RB Knowshon Moreno. Wait, i thought it was Denver's D that needed attention. Mike Nolan is ticked ...

11. Buffalo. DE Aaron Maybin. I thought for sure they would take Michael Oher here. There must be something about Oher that is scaring teams away.

10. San Francisco. WR Michael Crabtree. Wow! The 49ers finally have their heir apparent for Terrell Owens. Crabtree, Josh Morgan and Jason Hill is the future trio at wide receiver. I'll have more on the Crabtree selection in a separate post ...

9. Green Bay. NT B.J. Raji. Major bummer for the legion of Niners' fans who wanted the B.C. nose tackle. But the ones who wanted Crabtree are starting to freak out ... It'll come down to 1. Crabtree 2. Michael Oher 3. Trade down.

8. Jacksonville. OT Eugene Monroe. Looks like the Jags tried to ditch the pick, but they ultimately settle on the safe pick. Do the Packers take Raji? Do they trade with a team that wants Crabtree?

7. Oakland. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey. I know you should never be shocked by anything Al Davis does, but I'm a bit surprised. If you're a Raiders fan, you have to be worried that DHB has Troy Williamson written all over him. Crabtree and B.J. Raji are still alive, Niners fans ...

6. Cincinnati. OT Andre Smith. The Bengals have liked this guy all along. So much for his draft-day free fall, media. Raiders on the clock. Do they go with Crabtree?

5. Jets. QB Mark Sanchez. There's been a trade. Looks like Woody Johnson has beaten Danny Snyder to the punch. Sanchez certainly seems like he has the personality for NY, NY.

4. Seattle. LB Aaron Curry. The Seahawks replace Julian Peterson. The Faithful's hope for Michael Crabtree is still alive. He just needs to get past Oakland ...

3. Kansas City. DE Tyson Smith. The Chiefs ruin Barrows' mock. Thanks, Pioli. But it could be worse. At least I'm not Maiocco. Yikes!

2. St. Louis. OT Jason Smith. The Rams bring in Orlando Pace's replacement. Big shoes to fill. Barrows' mock is looking strong.

1. Detroit. QB Matt Stafford. Jim Schwartz and the Lions should look at what the 49ers did with their own No. 1 pick a few years ago and do the opposite. Stability, stability, stability ...

This will be ground zero for my draft coverage today. This is where I'll rationalize my own mock-draft misses and berate Maiocco's misfires. I'll also provide pithy comments after each selection ... Look for a peek at the team's new uniforms -- the big unveil will be 45 minutes or so -- on another post.

April 25, 2009
Making a mock-ery of the draft

I killed a lot of brain cells crafting this mock this morning. And for what? Chances are Danny Snyder or someone is going to swoop into the Top 10 and mess the whole thing up anyway. And what about the 49ers? I think they're in a nice spot and will have a chance to draft one of the following: Michael Oher, Brian Orakpo, Tyson Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. In other words, someone solid should be there. The boys at Niners Nation aggregated every mock they could find. The results? Oher and Orakpo seemed to land at No. 10 the most.

1. Detroit: QB Matt Stafford.
Nail-ed it!

2. St. Louis: OT Jason Smith.
The Rams' offensive line has been in disarray for years. Smith will keep Markc Sanchez Bulger upright.

3. Kansas City: LB Aaron Curry.
He's a leader and the safest pick in the draft. Besides, if I don't pick him here it screws up my mock.

4. Seattle: WR Michael Crabtree
The Seahawks remember how bare the cupboard was at this position last year.

5. Cleveland: DT B.J. Raji.
You need a big interior lineman when you play in the AFC North.

6. Cincinnati: OT Andre Smith.
He never fell as far as the stupid, no-account media assumed. Oh, wait - I'm part of the media.

7. Oakland: OT Eugene Monroe.
Al gets his speedy receiver in the second round.

8. Jacksonville: QB Mark Sanchez.
Ah, but is it the Jaguars who take him here?

9. Green Bay: DL Tyson Jackson.
A real value, especially for a team switching to a 3-4.

10. San Francisco: OT Michael Oher.
Jeremy Maclin and Brian Orakpo would tempt Scot McCloughan. He also could entertain offers to trade down. Yes, Barrows is engaging in the time-honored art of CYA...

11. Buffalo: DE Robert Ayers.
The Bills get perhaps the best 4-3 defensive end in the draft.

12. Denver: LB Brian Orakpo.
You would need a plastic surgeon to remove the smile from Mike Nolan's face.

13. Washington: DE Everette Brown.
A lot of teams have dropped Brown down their draft boards. The Redskins aren't that bright.

14. New Orleans: DB Malcolm Jenkins.
Mike Triplett owes me a beer if it's anyone other than the Ohio State CB, er S, uh, CB.

15. Houston: WR Jeremy Maclin.
The Texans need defense, but can they pass on the perfect complement to Andre Johnson?

16. San Diego: RB Chris Wells.
LaDainian Tomlinson's replacement is the thunder to Darren Sproles' lightning.

17. New York Jets: QB Josh Freeman.
Quarterback-needy Jets get most physically gifted passer in the draft.

18. Denver: LB Rey Maualuga.
Nolan's smile gets even wider.

19. Tampa Bay: DL Peria Jerry.
He was one of the top 3 players in January's Senior Bowl game.

20. Detroit: OT Eben Britton.
After finding their QB of the future, the Lions need to ensure there is a future.

21. Philadelphia: RB Knoshown Moreno.
When Brian Westbrook gets hurt - not if, when - the Eagles will have a legitimate backup.

22. Minnesota: WR Percy Harvin.
The Vikings select perhaps the most talented player in the draft. That hole in his foot only makes him faster.

23. New England: LB Clay Matthews.
Yeah, but can he catch goal-line touchdown passes?

24. Atlanta: DT Evander Hood.
A hard-working 4-3 linemen for the middle of the Falcons D.

25. Miami: LB Larry English.
A good pass-rushing threat with the ability to play in a two-point stance.

26. Baltimore: WR Kenny Britt.
The Ravens return to the state of New Jersey, which produced last year's first rounder, Joe Flacco.

27. Indianapolis: DE Aaron Maybin.
Dwight Freeney's heir apparent?

28. Buffalo: TE Brandon Pettigrew.
The Bills would love an offensive tackle here but can't pass up the draft's top tight end.

29. New York Giants: WR Brian Robiskie.
Like Marvin Harrison, but bigger.

30. Tennessee: CB Darius Butler.
The Titans hope for a speedy receiver, but go for a top cover man.

31. Arizona: RB Donald Brown.
A huge need for the Super Bowl runners up.

32. Pittsburgh: C Alex Mack.
He thoroughly outplayed Max Unger at the Senior Bowl, so it would be a shame if Unger gets picked ahead of him.

-- Matt Barrows

April 24, 2009
Crystal-ball look at 49ers draft

It's time for my fearless 1-9 prediction on whom the 49ers will take over the weekend draft. If I hit on even one of these, it means that I'm clairvoyant. The NSA probably will kidnap me and force me to work in an underground bunker where I float on my back in a warm, shallow pool while brain-linked to a trio of fellow precogs. If I strike out, this post gets mysteriously erased and I show up at each of your homes with a neurolizer. Please look right here, sir ... *FLASH*

1. (10th) OT Michael Oher, Ole Miss, 6-5, 309. This draft is as much about attitude as it is talent. Oher has the nastiness to play right tackle and the talent to eventually move to the left. He needs to be more consistent, and you wonder if Marvel Smith would be a perfect mentor.

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2. (43rd) RB Shonn Greene, Iowa, 5-11, 227. Rushed for 1,805 yards last year despite the fact that everyone knew he was coming. Greene has a huge lower body, runs low to the ground and is tough to tackle. The combination of Gore and Greene (better start coming up with nicknames) would be pretty imposing.

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3. (74th) OLB Paul Kruger, Utah, 6-4, 263. Kruger might not be as athletic as other OLB candidates, but he hustles as much as anyone. Kruger mostly played in a three-point stance with the Utes but he has experience standing up. He dominated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

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4. (111th) QB Stephen McGee, Texas A&M, 6-3, 225. A quarterback with a shoulder injury who has struggled with ever-changing offensive schemes. Sound familiar? McGee has as much physical talent as anyone, but he's been inconsistent. He'd benefit from being in a stable environment for a few seasons. Sound familiar?

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5A. (146) ILB Scott McKillop, Pitt, 6-1, 244. Not much to look at but McKillop has an uncanny knack for fighting through the slop and finding the ball carrier. A former wrestler who hoisted 225 pounds 27 times, McKillop would be a future "Ted" candidate and, at worst, a future back-up to Patrick Willis at "Mike."

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5B. (171) WR Brandon Gibson, Washington State, 6-1, 206. Another offensive player who suffered after his team changed schemes. Gibson was great as a junior but merely good as a senior. He doesn't have excellent speed, but he is an effective route runner.

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6. (184) OLB Pierre Walters, Eastern Illinois, 6-4, 269. He might need a season or two to learn the position, but Walters has great upside. Bench pressed 225 pounds 29 times and is just the type of stout linebacker Scot McCloughan likes.

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7. (219) WR/QB Julian Edelman, Kent State, 5-11, 195. A poor man's Pat White. Edelman was a prolific passer at San Mateo and then Kent State, but at 5-11 (and with 4.48 speed) teams are looking at him as a wideout who would make a scary weapon in the Wildcat.

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7. (244) TE Bear Pascoe, Fresno State, 6-5, 251. The former quarterback is a relentless blocker and is a much bigger threat in the passing game than the tight end he would replace, Billy Bajema.

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-- Matt Barrows

April 23, 2009
Niners draft prospects: How they fit

With the draft just two days away, it's time to get into the nitty gritty. GM Scot McCloughan said yesterday that many of his conversations with Mike Singletary pertaining to the draft are about how a particular player will fit into the 49ers' plans. When you spend a Top 10 pick on a player, ideally you want him to start right away (see: Willis, Patrick) and you want him to be a three-down player (see: Willis, Patrick.)

How will potential No. 10 picks find their way onto the field? First, let's trim the list of candidates. No one knows for sure, but it's a safe bet the following players are gone before the 49ers are on the clock: quarterbacks Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez, offensive tackles Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith. (And, yes, A. Smith will be gone). That would leave the following:

WR Michael Crabtree: McCloughan yesterday listed receiver as one of the positions the team would like to fill. In fact, he said the 49ers could use a couple of them. He also said that big-play receiver is a position teams should obtain through the draft because they are usually prohibitively expensive as free agents. Crabtree was a huge playmaker at Texas Tech - a clutch receiver with great hands and excellent body control. But there are caveats: First, he played in a gimmicky offense that skewed his numbers. Second, he's been hurt this offseason and hasn't run for scouts. Third, he's not as big as advertised. When it comes to high-profile college receivers who are busts in the NFL, (Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, Reggie Williams, etc.) the common denominator is that they can't get open in the pros. The 49ers would have to convince themselves they are not falling into the same trap that has routinely snagged Detroit and Jacksonville over the past decade. The other question is where Crabtree would play. The 49ers need to keep good-looking second-year player Josh Morgan on the field at all costs, but Crabtree likely would line up at Morgan's split end position. That would kick Morgan over to flanker where last year's top receiver, Isaac Bruce, played. None of these guys are slot receivers - that's Jason Hill's role - meaning one of the three will have to sit.

LB Aaron Curry: He's considered the best player in the draft, so how the heck does he get to No. 10? Well, Curry is not a sack master, he doesn't protect the QB and he doesn't score touchdowns, all of which means he could slide. It's hard to see the 49ers allowing Curry to get away, but where would he play? There's certainly a big need for a long-term "Ted" linebacker who would play next to Willis, but that doesn't seem to be a good fit for Curry. Instead, his skills project him as a strong-side outside linebacker. But that's where Manny Lawson plays, and the team has high expectations for Lawson this year. If the 49er draft Curry, a first-round linebacker will be on the sideline when the season starts.

DE Tyson Jackson: This guy practically screams 49ers. He's big, physical and comes from college football's best conference, the SEC. He would be a perfect fit at left defensive end on the 49ers' three-man defensive line ... if they hadn't spent a first rounder on a left defensive end, Kentwan Balmer, a year ago. McCloughan said he will draft the best player available regardless of position. Jackson will test that theory.

WR Jeremy Maclin: When McCloughan was discussing what he wants in a receiver yesterday, the first word out of his mouth was speed. Maclin's got that. He's a very fluid runner with great hands who makes big plays after the catch. Like Crabtree, he came from a spread offense but there is no concern that he can't run away from defenders. Maclin also seems to be a perfect heir apparent to Isaac Bruce at flanker, and you can envision a nice father-son relationship between the two Missouri residents. Maclin's issue, as it pertains to the 49ers, is size. The 49ers like bigger bodied receivers. Those receivers can beat jams at the line of scrimmage. They are valuable blockers in the running game. And they hold up better through the course of the season. In six years covering the 49ers, I've seen only one receiver whose rookie season wasn't marred by injuries. (It was Brandon Freakin' Lloyd! Can you believe it?). My Spidy Sense tells me Maclin will spend a lot of time on the injury report. Heck, he couldn't make it through the combine without getting nicked.

OT Michael Oher: I've written this before, but it's worth repeating: During one-on-one blocking drills at the Senior Bowl, Oher didn't just beat his defensive end opponents. He made them look like pewee league players, knocking them to the ground and plopping on top for good measure. That is, he's not only talented, he's got a nasty streak that has to make Singletary - "We want to impose our will on people." - salivate. One of the big questions about Oher is his ability to pick up a team's playbook. If this is still a concern - Oher had a perfectly acceptable Wonderlic score - after rounds and rounds of interviews, then maybe he slides on past. But with veteran Marvel Smith on the squad, the 49ers wouldn't have to rush Oher into the lineup.

OLB Brian Orakpo: Judging from what McCloughan said yesterday, Orakpo seems to fit everything the 49ers are looking for in an outside linebacker. He's a pass rusher with enough size to be a three-down player. Orakpo has been criticized in that many of his sacks at Texas came through sheer effort. But I think that's precisely the type of player Singletary and McCloughan are looking for. Why wouldn't Orakpo fit? Two reasons: Like Curry, adding Orakpo likely would mean that either Lawson or Parys Haralson, last year's sack leader, would see their playing time curtailed. (Though the 49er would have a pretty powerful OLB rotation). The other is that this draft is deep in 3-4 OLBs. McCloughan hit on Haralson in the fifth round. That might embolden him to find another Haralson in the middle rounds.

NT B.J. Raji: It's a catch 22 - if Raji falls to No. 10, it would mean there are character concerns that caused him to fall. From a pure on-the-field standpoint, it would be hard to see the 49ers passing on Raji. He plays a position the 49ers want to upgrade, and moreover, his skill set matches perfectly with what the 49ers want out of their nose tackle. A rotation of Raji and Aubrayo Franklin would be a handful for opposing centers and guards and would make the players to either side - Justin Smith and Balmer - better.

-- Matt Barrows

April 22, 2009
McCloughan: Seven teams want to trade top pick

According to Scot McCloughan, just about every team ahead of the 49ers is trying to trade back. Whether it's because of a dearth of talent or the amount of money required for a Top 10 pick, McCloughan said in a media session with the beatwriters a few minutes ago that seven of the nine teams ahead of the 49ers have called and said they had no problem trading down. McCloughan, however, said that while the 49ers would also consider trading down, they would not move forward. McCloughan said he thought the second quarterback (Mark Sanchez) and the third offensive tackle (Andre Smith) would be the pivotal players in allowing teams to trade down.

Will the Lions draft Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 pick? McCloughan seems to think so. `"Word on the street is, he is (the pick). They're negotiating with him, I know that," McCloughan said. He also said that the alleged rift between the 49ers and Stafford was overblown. In a Sports Illustrated story, Stafford was surprised that the 49ers team psychologist asked about his parents' divorce. "There's no bad blood (with) the agent, Tom Condon, or the player, Matt Stafford," McCloughan said.

This surprised me. McCloughan said the 49ers have not taken anyone off their draft board due to character issues. Two receivers, including one-time first rounder Percy Harvin, reportedly tested positive for marijuana. As far as behavioral issues, McCloughan said the team grades players like this: The area scouts are told to evaluate the player purely by his on-field performance. Then the 49ers will drop a player due to medical or personal issues. In 2007, for example, the team had Texas cornerback Tarell Brown ranked as a third rounder based purely on his play. But a couple of off-the-field incidents gave him a fifth-round grade. McCloughan said he thought there were 18 players worthy of a first-round value in the draft, which is slightly lower than previous years.

What positions are the 49ers considering? All of them, McCloughan said, which is typically GM-speak just a few days before the draft. Specifically, however, McCloughan was asked about the following positions:

Quarterback. "It's a good group of quarterbacks 1-7. We feel we have a chance to draft a quarterback at some point that will be a player for us at some point." McCloughan said he wants more competition at every position, including quarterback. "I would love to add more competition to it. I would love to. But you can't force the issue." McCloughan said there is currently no interest in a veteran passer, including Cleveland's Brady Quinn, who is on the trade block. "No discussions have ever taken place," McCloughan said of Quinn. "Ever."

Outside linebacker. McCloughan said a number of things that reinforce my opinion that the 49ers will not take Aaron Maybin or Everette Brown at no. 10. First he said that whomever the 49ers pick at No. 10 should be a three-down player. Later, when talking about Brian Orakpo, he said that what makes Orakpo attractive is that he's a big-bodied guy. On Maybin and Brown, McCloughan said that they both have a great burst but that they will never be 260-plus pound players, that they were limited in how much weight they could add. Taken together, that doesn't seem to bode well for Maybin - a mainstay to the 49ers in mock drafts - or Brown.

Wide receiver. McCloughan said he wants to add speed at the position. In fact, he said he could add two - maybe even three! - receivers in the draft.

Cornerback/safety. I asked McCloughan if the 49ers considered Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins a cornerback or a safety. "A corner who could play safety," is how he responded. McCloughan did say that the team is looking for a big-bodied safety with speed in the draft. Um, who isn't?

McCloughan also was asked about players currently on the roster.

Ray McDonald. McCloughan said McDonald had surgery on the same ACL he tore while at Florida. It was not clear whether McDonald re-tore it. However, McCloughan said that the right defensive end was recovering nicely and certainly would be ready by the start of the regular season. Whether McDonald will take part in training camp is still up in the air.

Reggie Smith. Last year's third-round choice was drafted to be a cornerback but was a safety at the recent minicamp. Will he remain a safety? "That's still up to the coaches. We've talked about it." Smith's position also likely will depend on who the 49ers draft this weekend.

Mark Roman. McCloughan said he has had no trade offers involving Roman, last year's starter at free safety who has been given permission to seek a trade. If the 49ers do some wheeling and dealing during the draft, however, Roman's name likely will pop up.

-- Matt Barrows

April 22, 2009
Percy Galore!

A year ago, my draft-day crush, offensive tackle Carl Nicks, got busted at a college kegger at the University of Nebraska before the draft. This year, I've been banging the drum for Florida wideout/running back Percy Harvin. How did he repay me? By testing positive for marijuana at the scouting combine in February, according to Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com. Fool me once ...

Before this revelation, Harvin was expected to be a mid first-round selection. The questions now are how far Harvin will drop and whether the 49ers would snag him despite the recent news. Harvin's play-making skills are undeniable. Scouts gush about his quickness off the line of scrimmage and envision him as a slot receiver that will give defenses fits. Sure he's raw, but he would make an immediate impact as a return man, as a change-of-pace back, as a guy who catches quick screens while he learns the art of route running.

And yet last year's Nicks' episode is evidence that the 49ers will let Harvin slip on past. The 49ers thought that Nicks - huge and physical - was one of the best offensive linemen in the draft and one of the top players at the Senior Bowl. But the 49ers wouldn't touch him. Despite their need for an offensive tackle, Nicks' past was too troubling for the 49ers. They instead took an undersized center, Cody Wallace, in the fourth round. Wallace did not play a single snap in 2008. The Saints took Nicks in the fifth, and he started 13 games at guard.

As for someone in Harvin's situation, the issue is not that he smoked marijuana - lots of players do - but that he allowed himself to be exposed to it so close to the combine. That shows a lack of judgment, a lack of restraint and a lack of respect for the rules of the league he wants to join. Still ... there's something to be said about a talented player who suffers a fall from grace. Simply dropping in the draft might serve as a slap in the face, an awakening, a jolt from the I-can-do-no-wrong atmosphere in which he was ensconced in college. It certainly seemed to be a motivating factor for Nicks. Will it do the same for Harvin? And should the 49ers take a chance?

-- Matt Barrows

April 21, 2009
Almost time to mock n' roll

Some of you have asked when I'm going to pull the veil off of Barrows Mock 1.0. I learned last year that it's wise to wait until the very last minute in order to get the latest news. (Maiocco trick). I realize this is like waiting for Christmas morning to arrive when you're six years old, but try to be strong. ... In the meantime, here are some pre-draft predictions to keep you occupied.

BodogLife.com has come out with some draft odds, including which player various teams will select in the first round:

Who will be the tenth player (San Francisco 49ers) selected in the NFL draft?
Aaron Maybin........7/4
Brian Orakpo.........2/1
Tyson Jackson......9/2
Malcolm Jenkins...10/1
Jeremy Maclin......10/1

I might switch the list up to read like this:
Brian Orakpo. Everything the 49ers like. But will he still be there? Unlikely.
Jeremy Maclin. A playmaker, but Maclin is not the big body the 49ers typically pick.
Aaron Maybin. Nice burst, but too light, too inexperienced for no. 10?
Tyson Jackson. Perfect fit ... if the 49ers hadn't picked Kentwan Balmer in '08.
Malcolm Jenkins. Is he a safety or cornerback? Risky Top 10 pick.

****************************
Barrows moonlights as a The Sporting News correspondent. The other beatwriters and I held a mock draft late last week. Here's the results. Do I make an awesome GM or what? Note: No Percy Harvin in the first round...

1. Lions: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia

2. Rams: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia

3. Chiefs: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest

4. Seahawks: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor

5. Browns: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech

6. Bengals: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama

7. Raiders: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College

8. Jaguars: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC

9. Packers: Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU

10. 49ers: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas

11. Bills: Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee

12. Broncos: Everette Brown, OLB/DE, Florida State

13. Redskins: Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi

14. Saints: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State

15. Texans: Clay Matthews, OLB, USC

16. Chargers: Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State

17. Jets: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri

18. Broncos: Peria Jerry, DL, Mississippi

19. Bucs: Brian Cushing, OLB, USC

20. Lions: Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC

21. Eagles: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia

22. Vikings: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona

23. Patriots: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest

24. Falcons: Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State

25. Dolphins: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois

26. Ravens: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State

27. Colts: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland

28. Bills: William Beatty, OT, UConn

29. Giants: Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina

30. Titans: Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers

31. Cardinals: Donald Brown, RB, UConn

32. Steelers: Fili Moala, DL, USC

-- Matt Barrows

April 20, 2009
Baldinger: Niners need playmakers

Brian Baldinger doesn't think the 49ers will take a quarterback in the draft and, in his opinion, he doesn't think they need a right tackle. Instead, Baldinger said today on NFL Network that he sees a playmaker on defense or offense as the top needs for the 49ers.

"I think they need a certifiable playmaker on offense, probably a wide receiver. They thought they would get that with Vernon Davis - he hasn't really been that kind of a guy. They've got a lot of names at wide receiver but no one who really jumps out where you say, 'Wow, that guy can run the wildcat. That guy could return punts. That guy can be a game breaker at wide receiver.'

"I think they need a wide receiver, and I also think they need a playmaker on defense, an outside pass rusher. Manny Lawson has not been that guy. They thought he would be. He's had injury problems. He's not a great knee bender, he's kind of stiff. They've got Parys Haralson now ... Haralson from Tennessee came on in the second half of the season. Mike Singletary kind of turned him loose. But I think they need a playmaker, a reall pass rusher right now on defense."

Why should anyone care what Baldinger says? For one thing, he was the only tv personality who, at this time last year, predicted that J.T. O'Sullivan would win the 49ers' starting quarterback job. That was such a ludicrous prediction in the spring of 2008 (I mean, no one was writing about O'Sullivan at that time) that he deserves credit for being right. The second reason is that Baldinger, to the chagrin of every beatwriter who covers the team, has been given exclusive access to the 49ers' draft room this weekend. Does Baldy have inside information? We shall find out ...

As for a playmaker on offense, I've been writing the same thing since December. However, the guy I pegged for the 49ers back then, Florida wideout Percy Harvin, is slipping on draft boards due to reported off-the-field issues. Last year, the guy I liked for the 49ers (my draft crush), Carl Nicks, also slid because off-the-field concerns. Wow. Does Barrows know how to pick 'em, or what?

-- Matt Barrows

April 18, 2009
Q&A: Draft only a week away

Question: Matt, looking at the schedule do you think that the niners will be above 500? and which playoff team from 08 can the niners steal a victory from?
Roger, Charlotte

Answer: Looking at the schedule, there are only two games that would make me tremble (if I were a 49ers fan and not the professional and objective journalist I am). They are Indy and Philly. The rest of those games are winnable. I think the 49ers could steal a game from each of the three playoff teams - Arizona, Minnesota, Atlanta - they play in the first five games. Of course, the fans of those teams likely are circling the San Francisco game and penciling in a "W."
- Matt

Question: Hey, I caught the tail end of your radio interview. I agree with you on the 49ers going OT in the 1st round, but what do you see them doing in rounds 2 and 3?
Scott, Elk Grove

Answer: OLB in the second and RB in the third. Or RB in the second and OLB in the third.
- Matt

Question: Matt, great blog dude. I'm sure Sing & Co. will love a nose-crushing run blocker at RT but what if you draft one at No. 10 and have a losing season? Will Singletary get a pass or a pink slip? A lot of coaching talent will be
available next year. If you select Sanchez, that buys you a couple of years at HC even w/ consecutive losing seasons (look up - Nolan, Mike). What do you think? And would Singletary play into these football politics?
Marc, Tempe, AZ

Answer: I hear you, Marc. But the great thing about Singletary is that he doesn't play politics. In fact, he's said he hates that aspect of football. (Man after my own heart). In other words, I don't think self-preservation is his first instinct unlike that other guy you mentioned. He's going to do what he feels is best.
- Matt


Question: I got a very strong flash that Matt Shaughnessy is going to be someone very special, perhaps even great. I can't explain it, (twice I woke up with thoughts that Walt Harris was going to have huge games and he made two INT's each time, so..) Can you tell us about Shaughnessy?
David San Francisco

Answer: Very blue collar - just what Singletary likes. The question is whether he's athletic enough to make the transition to 3-4 linebacker, something a lot of college DE's (See: Moore, Jay) have had trouble doing. If not, he's purely a 4-3 defensive end.
- Matt

Question: Another guy that fits the bill that the 49ers have shown some interest in is Pierre Walters, DE Eastern Illinois. He is a 2 time All-American, 6' 4 1/4" and his weight has been variously reported anywhere from 255 - 269. San Diego has also paid a lot of attention, even using an official visit. He has been moving up boards and is now showing as R 6-7 at NFLDraftScout.com. HE tweaked a hammy on his 40, but did a 32" vert, 10'6 1/2" BJ and 29 lifts.
Bill, Alameda

Answer: Duly noted. Walters was named a second-team All-American as a senior after finishing with 48 tackles, 16.5 for loss, and 4.5 sacks as a defensive end.
- Matt

Question: Rulon Davis did nothing at Cal due to injuries. Kentwan Balmer did nothing that I can think of. Who do you think the best defensive college player is in the draft? What if Knowshawn Marino is available? He is the best back in the draft and since Singletary wants to run...
Gambol, Foster City

Answer: When all is said and done, the best defensive player in the draft ... drum roll, please, ... will be Connor Barwin. Great motor, great athleticism, will end up on a good team (late first rounder). Just hasn't played very long at his position. ... I hear what you're saying about Moreno. But I can't wrap my mind around the 49ers using a first rounder on a running back.
-- Matt

Question: Matt, what is the condition of Ray McDonald's knee? I thought there was a question about his health status & that he injury may be more serious then the organization was letting on.
Mike, Folsom

Answer: Don't know any details about McDonald's knee other than the injury is to the same knee he had trouble with in college and that it's a serious problem. I did see McDonald at the March minicamp. He was walking without crutches and without a limp for what that's worth ...
- Matt

Question: Matt: About Julian Edelman ...I attended College of San Mateo at the time he was a freshman there and saw him play above any other players on the field at any game. He was a dual threat at Kent State, equally scoring as a passer and as a runner. Any more info you could provide about him would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Rabbit, Millbrae

Answer: You know more about him than I know. I do know that he put up some excellent numbers at his workout and would be a dangerous Wildcat weapon. He's veee-eeery interesting.
- Matt

Question: Come on Matt...Baltimore over San Diego? Baltimore has about three-square blocks you can walk through without getting shot...versus San Diego?
Robert, Honolulu

Answer: East-coast bias. I grew up in Washington at a time when DC had no baseball team. So we would go to Orioles games at Memorial Stadium. Saw some great games and never got shot. (though once we did lose our muffler).
- Matt

Question: Hey Matt. I've never posted on your blog before, but I've been a loyal reader for a couple years. This was truly a fun post to read. I'm from Maine, so I don't matter much over there on the sunny left coast, but I felt compelled to write something 'cause I love this idea. Keep up the great work!
Tiger, Portland, Me

Answer: You definitely matter. My folks have a farmhouse in South Bristol, about 90 minutes away. I keep bugging Maiocco to visit. If we do, will you join us for lobstahs?
- Matt

April 17, 2009
Wanted: blue-collar OLBs

"It's outstanding. Parys is only going to get better. He is the ultimate 'blue-collar' guy. He'll give you all he has day in and day out. You give me 10 others just like Parys and we could win championships. I am very happy for him."

Mike Singletary said that yesterday after the 49ers signed Parys Haralson, their pass-rushing linebacker, to a four-year contract extension. It was sent out to all the reporters, and it's sort of a throw-away quote. I mean, of course the head coach is going to praise the player he just committed to for another four years.

But I think it's also telling in that it's another example that Singletary is searching more for mentality than he is for talent. He doesn't praise Haralson's skills or his pass-rushing ability. He praises his attitude and his work ethic. Which is why I think that if the 49ers take an OLB in the draft, they'll shy away from taking one in the first round.

You might use the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers as a template for what the 49ers are trying to build at outside linebacker. Of the six OLBs on that squad, the highest draft pick was LaMarr Woodley, a second rounder in 2007. Three of the other OLBs were undrafted free agents, including James Harrison.

Having said all that, I just conducted a mock draft with other beatwriters across the country. When it came time for pick No. 10, I was prepared to snag Ole Miss OT Michael Oher. But for some reason, Texas DE/OLB Brian Orakpo was still on the board. I took Orakpo, who, unlike Penn State's Aaron Maybin and Florida State's Everette Brown, is stout enough to be a three-down linebacker from Day 1.

But I doubt Orakpo will be sitting there on April 25. If he isn't, here are some other guys that might fit Singletary's blue-collar mold later in the draft:

2nd round:
Connor Barwin, Cincinnati
Larry English, No. Illinois
Lawrence Sidbury, Richmond

3rd round:
Paul Kruger, Utah
David Veikune, Hawaii

4th:
Matt Shaughnessy, Wisconsin

6th:
Sulak Stryker, Missouri

-- Matt Barrows

April 16, 2009
Niners extend contracts for Haralson, Nedney

The 49ers announced today that they have extended the contracts of their top pass rusher and kicker. The team signed OLB Parys Haralson to a four-year contract extension through 2013. The 49ers also signed Joe Nedney to a two-year contract extension through 2011.Haralson's deal reportedly is for four years, $15 million and includes $6.5 million in guaranteed money.

Haralson led the 49ers with eight sacks last year despite being a part-time player over the first half of the season. Nedney, meanwhile, has been a clutch performer for the 49ers, connecting on 101 of 115 field goal attempts since being signed by the team in 2005. In 2005, he was named the team's offensive MVP.

Prior to the start of free agency, team officials said they would use their considerable salary-cap space to extend their own players rather than bring in expensive free agents. Haralson was perhaps the most important player to extend considering he is one of the few 49ers who has been able to pressure the opposing quarterback. His original rookie contract was scheduled to expire at the end of the 2009 season. Others the 49ers are considering for extensions include G David Baas (signed through 2009), TE Vernon Davis (2010) and ILB Patrick Willis (2011).

Haralson likely could have commanded more money -- a lot more? -- had he played through his contract and become a free agent at the end of the season. On a conference call, Haralson said he was prepared to hit the market if need be. However, he said his agent called him yesterday and said the 49ers were close to a figure he liked. When the agent called at the end of the day, the deal was done.

The bottom line, Haralson said, was that he was happy with the direction the 49ers are going. "We have the potential to be the best (defense) in the league," he said. "It's going to be another year of us running the 3-4 defense we're comfortable with."

-- Matt Barrows

April 16, 2009
Kiper: Sanchez could have been No. 1 in 2010

Mel Kiper, the dean of draft prognosticators, just took part in a conference call. The draft - in case you've been under a rock - is now nine days away. Here's what Mel had to say about some topics that might interest 49ers fans. Kiper, by the way, is sticking to his guns by predicting that San Francisco will select Penn State DE/OLB Aaron Maybin.


  • Kiper said he didn't envision any teams that pick in the top five or six trading down. There's been speculation that the Seahawks, which have the No. 4 pick, would trade with a team that wants USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. Kiper, however, said a more likely scenario involving Sanchez would involve either Jacksonville at no. 8 or San Francisco at no. 10.
  • Kiper seemed extremely high on Sanchez. He said he thought Sanchez was a cross between Chad Pennington and Troy Aikman. (He has Pennington's mobility and Aikman's accuracy.) If Sanchez had stayed another year at USC, Kiper said, he would be battling Oklahoma's Sam Bradford to be the No. 1 pick in 2010. And yet Kiper, in his latest mock, has Sanchez going to Washington at pick No. 13. Kiper said he wanted to place Sanchez higher but was told (by whom, it's not clear) not to. He said he wanted to place him at No. 10 in the mock but "was told the 49ers aren't going to take a quarterback." (I don't think the 49ers are going to take a QB, but I swear it wasn't me who told Mel.)
  • Texas DE-LB Brian Orakpo is a possibility for the 49ers at No. 10. Kiper agreed that players out of Texas haven't always lived up to their billing and that NFL that teams have noted that trend. Kiper said he thought Orakpo, a DE at Texas, would be able to stand up and play linebacker in a 3-4 scheme like the 49ers run. The big question about Orakpo, according to Kiper: "Can he stay at full strength for a long, 16-game season?" Orakpo was slowed by injuries at Texas.
  • Kiper didn't see B.J. Raji falling too far due to the rumors of a positive drug test at the combine. He said Jacksonville, Green Bay at No. 9 and San Francisco all could use a player like Raji. Another possibility for San Francisco in the second round is Raji's Boston College teammate, Ron Brace. Kiper said Brace was more of a clogger while Raji was more of a penetrator. Kiper has Brace going to Denver - a team building a 3-4 defense - in the second round.
  • Kiper said that offensive tackles are considered the safest pick because there is a built-in safety net with a tackle: If he can't play on the left side, you can move him to the right. If he can't play tackle, you can move him to guard. (Barrows' note: This also could be called Gallery's Law)
  • Here's a draft-day scenario. Let's say the top four offensive tackles - Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith, Andre Smith and Michael Oher - are gone by pick no. 10 but Sanchez is still on the board. Perhaps the 49ers trade down in the first round and pick Arizona OT Eben Britton. Kiper said he thought Britton - a 6-6, 310-pound junior - would have been a Top 10-15 pick if he had stayed for his senior season.

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2009
Singletary, 49ers twice in prime time

My take on the 49ers' schedule -- even if their 2008 final record didn't demand that they be in prime time, their charasmatic head coach did. Mike Singletary was perhaps the most memorable part of the 2008 campaign -- "I want winners!" -- and he and his team will be featured at least twice on national television: at home against Jay Cutler and the Bears Thursday Nov. 12 and on Monday night Dec. 14 at home against another QB the 49ers considered adding in the offseason, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. The 49ers and Cardinals have played the last two seasons on Monday night and the two teams have opened the season together four straight times. The Chicago game, of course, will reunite Singletary with his former team.

Three of the first five teams the 49ers play -- the Cardinals, Vikings and Falcons -- made the playoffs a year ago. The team has an early-ish bye in Week Six -- players prefer it later in the year -- and then three straight games against AFC South opponents before the home game against Chicago. The 49ers will head to Green Bay to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in a potential bad-weather game the following week. They'll close out the season against two of the worst teams in 2008, Detroit and St. Louis.


PRESEASON:

Friday, August 14 vs. Denver 7:00 PM

Saturday, August 22 vs. Oakland 5:15 PM

Saturday, August 29 @ Dallas 5:00 PM

Friday, September 4 @ San Diego 7:00 PM


REGULAR SEASON:

September 13 @ Arizona 1:15 PM
The last time the 49ers were in Arizona, Mike Martz called for a fullback dive from 2 1/2 yards away. I think we all remember how well that turned out. The game also will reunite Kurt Warner with the team he used considered joining this offseason.

September 20 vs. Seattle 1:05 PM
The last time the 49ers had an early-season home game against the Seahawks, Alex Smith left with a badly separated shoulder.

September 27 @ Minnesota 10:00 AM
Patrick Willis got the better of Adrian Peterson the last time these teams played.

October 4 vs. St. Louis 1:15 PM
This should be the 49ers' easiest game early in the season. The Rams will be without mainstays Torry Holt and Orlando Pace this season.

October 11 vs. Atlanta 1:05 PM
Like looking in the mirror? Last year the Falcons were the type of team the 49ers want to be this season.

October 18 BYE

October 25 @ Houston 10:00 AM
The 49ers have never played the Texans in Houston. Barrows has never been to Houston.

November 1 @ Indianapolis 10:00 AM
The second 10 a.m. start in a row for the 49ers. Thank goodness it's against a patsy like Peyton Manning. Oh wait ...

November 8 vs. Tennessee 1:15 PM
Another team the 49ers will try to emulate this year. The game reunites receiver Brandon Jones with the Titans, who used him as their No. 3 wideout last season.

November 12 (Thursday) vs. Chicago 5:20 PM
Lots of storylines with this one -- Singletary-Bears reunion, Jay Cutler, Tampergate. Seems like a pretty good game to put on in prime time.

November 22 @ Green Bay 10:00 AM
A potential bad-weather game and the first regular-season affair Aaron Rodgers has had with the team that passed over him in 2005. The 49ers will have a few extra days to prepare.

November 29 vs. Jacksonville 1:05 PM
Maurice Jones-Drew returns to the Bay Area. Will Mark Sanchez be throwing passes for the Jags?

December 6 @ Seattle 1:15 PM
The 49ers have won in Seattle two out of the last three seasons.

December 14 (Monday) vs. Arizona 5:30 PM
The 49ers nipped the Cardinals on Monday night in 2007; Arizona returned the favor last season in one of the best prime-time games of the year.

December 20 @ Philadelphia 10:00 AM
The 49ers won an overtime game here in 2003. They haven't fared as well in the games since.

December 27 vs. Detroit 1:05 PM
If you're going to write in a "W" anywhere on the schedule, it's here. If Matt Stafford really hates the 49ers, he'll have his chance to show it.

January 3 @ St. Louis 10:00 AM
Playing in front of his family in December '08, Shaun Hill needed a heroic second-half to pull out a win. Will he be the 49ers' quarterback as 2010 gets going?

-- Matt Barrows

April 14, 2009
Niners shoot down Quinn rumor

The 49ers say they are not the "mystery team" offering a first-round draft pick for Brady Quinn. The 49ers have the No. 10 in this year's draft. Quinn, the 22nd pick of the 2007 draft, has been the subject of trade rumors because the Browns have A.) a new coach and B.) another starting-caliber quarterback in Derek Anderson. Quinn and the 49ers were linked today in ESPN's "rumor" section.

Quinn made his NFL debut in the final game of 2007 against the 49ers. Last year he played in three games, completed 50.6 percent of his passes and threw two touchdowns against two interceptions. He had a 66.6 percent passer rating. The 49ers' quarterbacks currently are Shaun Hill (career 90.5 career passer rating), Alex Smith and Damon Huard. They are also taking close looks at several quarterbacks who may be available in the draft: Georgia's Matthew Stafford, USC's Mark Sanchez, Kansas State's Josh Freeman and Ball State's Nate Davis.

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When I was writing yesterday about the local players who will work out Friday for the 49ers I omitted Cal defensive end Rulan Davis. Davis stands nearly 6-5 and weighs 283 pounds. Some teams are looking at him as a 3-4 linebacker, but most see him as a defensive end. The 49ers probably would use him as a pass-rushing 3-4 end, a la Justin Smith and Demetric Evans who have similar dimensions.

-- Matt Barrows

April 13, 2009
Locals to have their day later this week

The 49ers are scheduled to have their local pro day on Friday. Who is eligible to attend? Any player who grew up in the Bay Area (and a tad beyond) as well as those who played collegiately in the area. Some players, such as San Jose State's Jarron Gilbert, already have met with team officials and are not expected to attend. Here's a list of some of the players who can take part in the event. I put their position rank, not overall rank, in parenthesis. Rank is courtesy of NFL Draft Scout, so direct your disagreement, rancor, outrage thataway ...

Alex Mack, C, Cal. (1) One of the best players at the Senior Bowl. He's just the 49ers' type ... if they hadn't just taken a center in last year's draft.

Andy Levitre, G, Oregon State. (4) Attended San Lorenzo Valley High in Ben Lomond.

Jarron Gilbert, DE, San Jose State. (7) Gilbert's athleticism is off the charts (and out of the pool) But could Scot McCloughan pull the trigger on a 3-4 DE early in the draft two years in a row?

Cameron Morrah, TE, Cal (10).

Zack Follet, OLB, Cal (12). Might be an excellent jack-of-all-trades Jeff Ulbrich-type linebacker for the 49ers.

Alex Fletcher, C, Stanford. (12).

Christopher Owens, CB, San Jose State (13). He had the best pro day of any of the Spartan players.

Will Taufoou, FB, Cal (13).

Worrell Williams, ILB, Cal (13).

Coye Francies, CB, San Jose State (16).

Pannel Egboh, DE, Stanford. (16) At 6-6, 276 pounds, a potential 3-4 DE late in the draft?

Anthony Felder, ILB, Cal (19).

Ra'Shon Harris, DT, Oregon. (20) From Pittsburg.

Paul Fanaika, G, Arizona State (27). Played at Mills High School in Milbrae.

Jeff Schweiger, DE, San Jose State (29).

Anthony Kimble, RB, Stanford (34).

Ben Muth, OT, Stanford (36).

Khalil Bell, RB, UCLA (40) Played at Catholic High in Marin.

Wopamo Osaisai, CB, Stanford (43). Great speed. A late-round special teams ace.

David Richmond, WR, San Jose State (52).

Gerald Washington, DE, USC (54). From Vallejo. He'll be 27 on draft. Why so old? The guy spent four years as a Navy chopper mechanic before heading to USC.

Julian Edelman, WR, Kent State (56). Interesting prospect because he played QB in college. Turned heads as a freshman quarterback at the College of San Mateo. He ran a 4.48 40 at his pro day.

-- Matt Barrows

April 13, 2009
Houston: We can cross you off the list

I've been covering the 49ers since 2003, and the gig has taken me to every NFL city save one: Houston. Assuming that I remain healthy (please, God) and The Bee still has a travel budget in the fall (please, economy), that omission will be addressed this season when the 49ers visit the Texans. With the NFL poised to release the full schedule - dates, times, national tv skeds - tomorrow, I thought I'd list my favorite and least favorite NFL destinations.

1. New Orleans. Sure, it's got problems. But the Big Easy is the most unique big city in America. Great atmosphere, fantastic restaurants and finally a place where I can use my high school French. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

no.jpg miami.jpg seattle.jpg

2. Miami. Like a crazy girlfriend. She's hot and a lot of fun, but you're always worried you might get stabbed.

3. Seattle. It's better early in the season than late when - you've probably never heard this about Seattle - it tends to be a bit damp. True Seattle story: After the 49ers fourth-quarter win a few years ago, the wind was so fierce that the hotel tower I was staying in literally was swaying back and forth. It felt like I was bunking in the crow's nest of a clipper ship.

4. New York. I hesitate to list NYC this high because it will validate all those Manhattanites who think the sun rises and sets on the Hudson. Still, there's an energy in the city like no other. Now if you'd just lower your hotel rates, I actually may be able to stay there instead of Rutherford, NJ.

5. Washington. Barrows' hometown. Everybody always complains that D.C. is overrated. Keep complaining -- we press one button and your city ceases to exist.

6. Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is like the ugly girl from high school who reappears as a stunner at the reunion. Who knew there was a beautiful city behind all those smokestacks and smog? Great stadium.

7. Chicago. I came up with the perfect motto for this city - Chicago: Fat and Coughing. Ok, that's a bit harsh. You have a fantastic downtown, lots of cool neighborhoods and an underrated lakefront. Still, a couple of hours a week on the treadmill wouldn't hurt.

8. Boston. If you're so tough, why are all the men wearing necklaces?

9. Baltimore. The Inner Harbor is nice and the city has the best football-baseball stadium combo in America. Plus, any city that produces characters like Stringer Bell, Omar and Snoop gets huge bonus points. If you haven't seen "The Wire," drop whatever you're doing and rent - no, buy -- it. You can thank me later.

10. Green Bay. Yes, you may die of hypothermia 15 minutes after arriving. And yes, their idea of "entertainment" involves a Remington and an unsuspecting deer. But nowhere else do you get such a feeling of community, especially when the Packers play. If you want real America, this is it.

11. Phoenix/Tempe. Two words: jean shorts. 365.

12. Buffalo. This past December I watched Buffaloans (Buffalites? Buffalarians? Buffalenos?) tailgate for two and half hours in a freezing rain. Without jackets. With a smile on their faces. Toughest. People. Ever. (They'll need that stiff upper lip with T.O. in town)



11292008075 from http://sparrow280.vox.com/

13. Tampa. The city is famous for its excellent ...(my mom reads this) ... libraries.

14. Kansas City. I'm trying to eliminate beef from my diet, but I make an exception when I come to Kansas City. You're welcome, taste buds. Sorry, colon.

15. Nashville. The music scene. The university. The downtown. You'd have a nice little city here if there wasn't a Denny's, Hardee's or Waffle House everywhere you turned. (See: zoning laws)

16. San Diego. Voted best city in America ... in which to get into a fistfight with a gaggle of drunken midshipmen.

17. Cleveland. Like restoring an old El Camino: You're making progress but every so often you question whether it's worth the effort.

elcamino.jpg

18. Cincinnati. It's as if a Southern city got hammered one night, went home with a Midwest city and nine months later out popped Cincinnati.

19. Denver. Where your flight gets delayed.

20. Jacksonville. The best thing about Jacksonville is that it's an hour and a half from Savannah.

21. Atlanta. Why does it take so long to get through security at Hartsfield International Airport? Everyone's trying to get the hell out of Atlanta.

22. Philadelphia. If I write anything but "Philly sucks" I won't be allowed back in Washington.

23. Charlotte. If you love Bank of America ATMs, book a flight.

24. Indianapolis. I'll set the scene for you: Overcast, 40 degrees and it snowed about a week ago so that the streets are brown and slushy and rock salt coats everything. That's Indianapolis from October-May.

25. Detroit. Where M. Night Shyamalan draws his inspiration.

26. Minneapolis. A few years ago, all of the 49ers beatwriters got food poisoning after eating undercooked chicken at the Metrodome. That was the highlight of the trip.

27. St. Louis. Two out of the last three cab drivers I had likely belonged to the KKK. The third guy? I couldn't put my bags in his trunk because it was overflowing with clear plastic jugs that were sloshing around with a mysterious pink fluid. Pretty sure it wasn't lemonade. Dear FBI ...

28. Dallas. City motto: flat, brown and ... sorry, fell asleep. Y'all come back real soon!

-- Matt Barrows

April 11, 2009
Q&A: Draft-day scenarios

Question: If SF selects Raji and stays with 6 DLmen, do you agree Franklin is most vulnerable since Sopoaga (and Balmer in a pinch) can play NT + DE, and Smith, Evans and McDonald are likely to stick?
Mike, Montclair, NJ

Answer: No, I think Franklin is safe. Remember, Raji was part of a platoon system at Boston College. Because his forte is his burst off the line, the 49ers would want to keep him fresh. In that way, Raji and Franklin would help each other. If they selected Raji, I see the two-deep on opening day like this: LDE: Evans and Balmer; NT Raji and Franklin; RDE Smith and McDonald.
- Matt

Question: Matt, the argument goes that the Niners should draft a tackle at 10 because they gave up 55 sacks each of the past two seasons, but could the 35 sacks given up in 2006 be more representative of the talent on the OL? 55 sacks is about par for any Martz offense, and 2007 can be written off as an aberration due to the historically bad coordinating effort by Hostler. Doesn't an improvement in scheme, cohesion and technique help the OL more than a top 10 pick? Isn't the cost of drafting a RT at 10 too much?
Terry, Davis

Answer: Terry is right. The 55 sacks over the last two seasons probably is skewed because of the respective offensive coordinators in 2007 and 2008. Still, 35 sacks is nothing to write home about. Moreover, Singletary wants a running game that can take over games when need be. To me, that more than anything else - Singletary's insistence on a certain attitude -- points to an OT at pick no. 10 ... if Smith or Oher are still on the board. And that's a big if ...
- Matt

Question: Hey Matt, Love the blog. I was wondering where Michael Crabtree's health is at, since I haven't heard any news about it since he made the decision to have the surgery pre-pro-day. Has he had surgery? How is his recovery? Is his visit a meet and greet (and interview) or what else is involved or could be involved at this stage of his rehab?
Also, do you think Isaac Bruce's return would effect whether the Niners would take him at #10?
Grant, Hamilton, Ontario

Answer: Hi, Grant. MM said he saw Crabtree walk out of the team's facility without a limp. However, he is not yet running around and his 49ers visit was just that - a sit down with team officials. The 49ers have another minicamp the weekend after the draft. I'm not sure Crabtree would be available for that, but he should be ready for OTAs in June.
- Matt

Question: Hey Matt. I was wondering what you thought about a 49er-Denver trade. If Sanchez fell and Denver didn't want to take any chances, what's the realistic possibility that they move up two spots? Say the #10 for the #12 and a third rounder? That seems like the right value right?
Carlos, Hayward

Answer: I think if Sanchez falls to No. 10, there were be several teams - including Denver - calling the 49ers. That might mean the 49ers would have plenty of bargaining ability with that pick.
- Matt

Question: Hi Matt, I was wondering why you don't think Everette Brown would be on Niners list. At almost 6'2" and weighing in the 255-260 range, he has a very similar size to our best pass rusher, Parys Haralson, and he is more explosive and athletic.
Dave, Thousand Oaks

Answer: Well, in the silly pre-draft season their apparent lack of interest could mean that the 49ers are VERY interested in Brown. However, my read is that Brown was sort of a one-trick pony at Florida State, someone who only rushed the passer. If the 49ers took him at No. 10, he would have to be able to stop the run and occasionally drop into coverage. Brown is an interesting guy. There is a LOT of mixed opinions about him ...
- Matt

Question: Hi Matt, love your blog. Matt, I'm becoming more and more enamored with the idea that the 49ers should draft NT Ron Brace with the second round pick (# 43). Do you think 49ers might consider Brace at # 43?
Cody, Lafayette

Answer: Sure - if they think he can be a NT ...
- Matt

Question: Do you think that Mike Singletary could be just the right guy to mentor the new Michael Vick? What is his status and is he NFL ready?
Will, Camarillo

Answer: I wonder about that, too. The 49ers, through a spokesman, have said that they are not interested in Vick. Singletary, however, seemed to be more open to the possibility. From a social standpoint, I think there's a good debate about whether someone like Vick deserves a second chance. From a football standpoint, Vick certainly wouldn't be ready to come in play quarterback. But he could help a team in other ways while he learns a team's system. Vick's first step, of course, will be petitioning the league to allow him to play again. My guess is that his first job out of prison will be in the newly formed UFL. If he plays well and minds his ps and qs, the next step is the NFL ... Will be an intriguing story line.
- Matt

Question: What's the scoop? There hasn't been a new 49ers headline in like 3 days. Do I need to get my 49ers news elsewhere? Or is there really nothing going on? I mean didn't Sanchez visit or anything? One new headline every 5-6 days is not going to cut it.
Tom, Bend OR

Answer: Wow! Not too long ago, readers would go months without any football news. And that's when they actually paid $$$ for the content. Now I go two days without blogging and you start breaking out in hives?
- Matt

April 9, 2009
Smith v. Oher: Niners would love to choose

If you were putting odds on whom the 49ers would draft in the first round on April 25, the heavy favorites - pun intended - would have to be Andre Smith and Michael Oher. Both fill a need for the 49ers. Yes, the team signed Marvel Smith last month but they still have no long-term answer at right tackle. Perhaps most importantly, they both have a nasty streak that has to get Mike Singletary excited. Singletary is looking as much for mentality as he is talent, and both players seem to fit that "impose our will" attitude Singletary has talked about so much. Both also will be stopping in for visits. Here's a closer look:

Michael Oher
6-4, 309
arms: 33 ¼
bench: 24
40: 5.22

Oher and Cal center Alex Mack were far and away the best offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl. I remember watching Oher during one-on-one blocking drills. In three straight drills, Oher not only defeated his opponent - a different guy each time - he knocked him to the ground and then plopped on top of him for good measure. That's a nastiness the 49ers just haven't had on offense and one that Singletary is looking for.

The downsides for Oher are that he needs to get stronger and he seems aloof at times. There has been a lot of ink spilled about his intelligence. Oher had almost no schooling as a child and was way behind when he enrolled at a well-to-do high school in Memphis. But that doesn't mean he's unintelligent. Oher reportedly scored a 19 on his Wonderlic intelligence test. Ideally, evaluators want to see offensive linemen score in the mid to upper 20s. But 19 is by no means a deal breaker. Smith, by comparison, scored a 17 while legend has it Dan Marino scored a 16. I seem to recall Marino having a nice career.

Andre Smith
6-4, 332
arms: 35 3/8
bench: 19
40: 5.28

Smith was rated as the top offensive lineman in the draft before he mysteriously bolted from the scouting combine. His best attribute is his combination of size and quickness. He's incredibly agile for someone who weighs 330 pounds and he was good at hitting moving targets at Alabama. His run-blocking ability has to be attractive to a team that wants to re-dedicate itself to the run in 2009, and pairing Smith with second-round pick Chilo Rachal would give the 49ers a wicked right hook for years to come.

Underclassmen like Smith always bring maturity concerns, and his action in Indianapolis only heightens those concerns. Smith also was suspended before the most important game at Alabama, the Sugar Bowl. His replacement was thrashed by Utah defensive ends Paul Kruger and Koa Misi, a big reason why Alabama lost the game. Like Oher, Smith also needs to spend more time in the weight room as his jiggly pro day performance attests. However, his 19 reps of 225 pounds aren't as poor as they seem when you consider his arms are nearly three feet long.

-- Matt Barrows

April 9, 2009
Maybin dropping by today

Penn State's Aaron Maybin will visit the 49ers today and tomorrow, meaning that the team will have hosted just about every top player that might be available at pick No. 10 on April 25. Maybin played defensive end at Penn State but the 49ers would use him as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense. Maybin's best asset is that he is very quick off the snap and he had at least one tackle behind the line of scrimmage in every game he started in 2008.

maybin1.jpg

Will the 49ers take Maybin at No. 10? Given their track record, I think they'd have a hard time convincing themselves to do so. For one thing, he's an underclassman who started only one full season at Happy Valley. GM Scot McCloughan prefers seniors. More concerning, however, is Maybin's size. He weighed in at 249 pounds at the combine in February but played at Penn State at a much lower weight, about 235 pounds. Will bulking up cause him to lose that quickness? And if he can't add the weight, how will he hold up against the 330-pound offensive tackles he'll have to face every week in the NFL?

When looking for outside linebackers, the 49ers have typically taken bigger, stouter college defensive ends in the middle rounds. Parys Haralson weighed more than 250 pounds as a senior at Tennessee. Jay Moore weighed more than 270 as a senior at Nebraska. Manny Lawson is the exception, and after three seasons he only recently has tipped the 250-pound mark. That experiment might give the 49ers pause with Maybin.

The two DE-OLBs that would best fit the 49ers' mold for the position are Texas' Brian Orakpo and Tennessee's Robert Ayers. Both are big, stout senior defensive ends who would be able to hold up in NFL trenches. Ayers made a habit of pancaking his offensive tackle opponents during Senior Bowl practices in January. The problem is that Orakpo probably won't be around at pick No. 10 while it might be too early to choose Ayers there.

The team has not arranged a visit with Florida State's Everette Brown, who is a lot like Maybin in that he's a smallish underclassman who doesn't have a very big body of work from which to judge him. It's hard to see the 49ers choosing him, either.

Potential No. 10 picks:

WR Michael Crabtree....visited
OLB Everette Brown......not visited
QB Josh Freeman.........visited
CB Malcolm Jenkins.....not visited
WR Jeremy Maclin........not visited
ILB Rey Maualuga........visited
OLB Aaron Maybin.......visited
OT Michael Oher......... will visit
NT. B.J. Raji..................visited
QB Mark Sanchez........visited
OT Andre Smith...........will visit

-- Matt Barrows

April 8, 2009
Small-school CB visiting 49ers

The 49ers are one of several teams interested in Norfolk State cornerback Don Carey, according to Carey's agent. Carey already has visited with the Miami Dolphins, and the Steelers, Seahawks and 49ers also are on his dance card. The 49ers lost one cornerback, Donald Strickland, in free agency, and another, Reggie Smith, was playing safety at the minicamp held last month. The team also considered adding free agents Eric Green and Karl Paymah, but both signed elsewhere.

Carey stands 5-11 and weighs 192 pounds. He ran a 4.49 at the combine and had 18 reps of 225 pounds - a solid number for a defensive back. The big question about Carey, of course, is the level of competition he faced at Norfolk State. Here's what NFL Draft Scout has to say about him:

Positives: Adequate height and a fair build throughout for his frame. ... Plays physically at the line and in coverage. ... Good straight-line speed and excellent recovery speed. ... Gets back into the play even if a receiver makes a nice head fake to get an advantage. ... Very capable of reading the quick screen or supporting the run on the outside.

Negatives: Lacks top-end speed and great strength. ... Will be a little too physical at times, might be susceptible to pass interference calls. ... Gets moved too easily by receiver blocks. ... Played against a lower level of competition and must speed up his recognition. ... Inconsistent hands for the interception.

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Today's visitors include USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and Purdue running back Kory Sheets. Sanchez you know about, but Sheets is interesting because at 5-11, 208 pounds, he is a departure from the big running backs the 49ers mostly have been looking at heading into the draft. Sheets had one of the fastest 40 times of any running back at the combine.

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In other 49ers news .... Welcome to the Bay Area, Bob Lange. The team formally announced today that Lange is the 49ers' new public relations director. A Philadelphia native, Lange spent eight seasons in the Eagles' pr department, which means he probably has some excellent T.O. meltdown stories. Can't wait to hear 'em, Bob ...

-- Matt Barrows

April 7, 2009
QB Freeman to visit 49ers

Mark Sanchez isn't the only high-profile college quarterback the 49ers are sniffing around. The team also has arranged a visit with Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman. USC's Sanchez is scheduled to be in Santa Clara tomorrow and Thursday.

Freeman is generally regarded as the third-best quarterback prospect in the draft behind Sanchez and Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. At nearly 6-6 and weighing 248 pounds, Freeman is bigger and more athletic than the other two. In 2008, he threw 20 touchdowns against eight interceptions for the Wildcats. He also ran for 14 touchdowns, the second highest mark for a major college QB last season. He also has a wicked arm, as this 62-yard, on-the-run-across-his-body fling demonstrates. Holy crap!

Would the 49ers pounce on Freeman at pick No. 10? Probably not. But Freeman, along with USC linebacker Rey Maualuga, may be an option if the 49ers were to trade down in the first round. Also keep in mind that the 49ers' personnel department keeps copious notes about every NFL player. That is, should Freeman become available in a trade or through free agency at a later date, the 49ers would refer to the notes taken during his April, 2009 visit.

Here's how NFL Draft Scout rates Freemen:

Positives: Tall frame with a solid build. Arm strength allows him to make all of the NFL throws and attack the deep half. Stands tall, will step up in the pocket, keep his eyes downfield and deliver the ball to secondary target. Good, not great, quickness on release. Keeps the ball low over the middle, away from defenders. Can be accurate on fades and corner routes, although he needs a bit more air under the ball. Good straight-ahead runner with long strides and deceptive speed, can shed arm tackles and uses his tall frame to get extra yards after contact. Dropped some weight to better his footwork and speed. Works under center and in the shotgun.

Negatives: Must improve his footwork. His height makes him take long strides in his drop. Fails to step into his throws or square his shoulders at times, relies on his arm strength too often. Inconsistent accuracy from the pocket and throwing on the run. Needs to anticipate downfield throws better, sometimes getting the ball to his receiver a second early or late. Prone to turnovers, makes poor decisions trying to make plays that aren't there. Does not feel backside pressure. Lacks touch on shorter throws. Ball comes out of his hands poorly at times, negating his arm strength. Sometimes pats the ball before the throws. Loose with the ball in the pocket and as a runner. Doesn't move the pile as you'd expect in short-yardage situations, but his height allows him to be effective.

Compares To: JASON CAMPBELL, Washington -- Freeman is a bit bigger and has more bulk. Both came from programs that really did not highlight their athletic talents, but like the Redskins did with Campbell, a team will have to show patience. He has a great arm that can rival Matthew Stafford's but has to work on his delivery and release. With such a weak draft class at this position, he could be the third quarterback chosen in the first round. If Detroit trades down from the top spot, it is because they are convinced that Freeman will be around at number 20.

Freeman also has had visits with the Jets, Buccaneers, Rams, Jaguars, Lions, Seahawks and Panthers.

-- Matt Barrows

April 4, 2009
Q&A: Looking for the perfect 10

Question: Hey Matt. Just wondering, how much interest do you see the 49ers having in Sanchez? If he's there at 10, do you think the 49ers would take him?
Jagmin, Toronto

Answer: For all the positive press that Sanchez is receiving at the moment, I just don't see the 49ers taking him. My read on the subject is that the 49ers feel they have three quarterbacks perfectly capable of running the type of offense that Jimmy Raye is cooking up for this season. Remember, Raye enjoyed his greatest success with Elvis Grbac at the helm. Remember also that Shaun Hill is 7-3 as a starter and that the 49ers' decision makers still believe in Alex Smith.
- Matt

Question: Do the 49ers have any plans to bring Malcolm Jenkins in for a workout?
And, does that mean a true lack of interest... or maybe alot?
John, Bentonville, AR

Answer: Yes, no, maybe. There could be several factors at play here. It could be that Jenkins is indeed visiting and the beatwriters just haven't found out about. (Our zone defense isn't impenetrable.) Or that the 49ers feel they've learned enough about Jenkins at the combine and his pro day. Or that the 49ers are super-jazzed about him and don't want to tip their hand. In other words, the whole process is designed to keep everyone - me, you, the other 31 teams - guessing. Which is why the draft is so fun ...
- Matt

Question: Hey Matt, I just watched Maiocco do a T.V. piece for NFL Network on the 49er draft needs (Mel Kiper he ain't!). How could you let him get that gig? You are way more qualified for that....aren't you? Or are you saving yourself for ESPN?!?!?!?!
Well, how about some insight on what YOU think will happen with that #10 pick
Dave, Ukiah

Answer: They tried to put me on TV but there was too much glare off my head. Also, I say "um" like, um, 100 times a sentence. In other words, I'm custom-built for print ... I wouldn't have said too much differently than Maiocco anyway. I think it's O-lineman or pass rusher at No. 10. (Unless Crabtree falls ... or the 49ers trade down ... or Raji slides ... or ... )
-- Matt

Question: Hey Matt, two-part question here: Do you thing the Bears overpaid? And how much do you hear the 49ers were willing to give up to get Cutler?
Ed, Sacramento

Answer: Yes, I think the Bears overpaid. They've got big questions at tackle (they drafted an injured player, Chris Williams, last year, then signed another injured guy, Orlando Pace, to play on the other side) and at wide receiver where a defensive back/return man, Devin Hester, is their most dangerous player. That is, they brought in a quarterback but by trading away several high picks, they limited the ways to make that quarterback better. ... Dunno how much the 49ers were willing to part with because it never reached that stage.
- Matt

Question: Now that Bruce is back, do you think the 49ers should seriously consider signing Holt? I think the duo could help Alex Smith find his groove. And I'm sure they would also be beneficial to Shaun Hill and the young receivers. I'm sure a one-year contract wouldn't hurt.
Chris, El Cerrito

Answer: I spoke briefly to Holt's agent this week and it doesn't seem as if there was any interest from the 49ers. Now that Bruce is back, the 49ers have their veteran receiver. Look for them to add one more through the draft.
- Matt

Question: Hey Matt, big fan of yours. Do you think the 49ers could benefit from any of the free agents that are left? The signing of Marvel Smith helps, but we have a few holes to fill. Will they all be filled in the draft?
Agustin, Alberquerque

Answer: I think the 49ers are just about finished with free agency. There's a chance that they'll add tight end Tony Curtis if they don't find a blocking tight end in the draft. But don't hold your breath for any big names.
- Matt

Question: Matt, my question is more of a statement. I did some personal research and found that 31.2% of interceptions in the NFL last season came from safeties, with 4 of the 5 players with more than 5 INT's being safeties. Of the niner's 12 interceptions a big ZERO came from the safety position... Do you think that Dashon Goldson can actually get after the ball? Because I think that Alfonso Smith could come in and make a difference immediately. 21 interceptions in 4 seasons is impressive. Could he convert to safety? He'll definitely be there for us in the 2nd.
KC, Sacramento

Answer: I have no doubt in my mind that if Dashon Goldson stays healthy this season he will lead the 49ers in interceptions. But that's a big if. Goldson has not been able to stay on the field, not in college and not in the NFL despite playing a bit part the last two seasons. Can he put that behind him? Sometimes a player can do that. Look at Frank Gore. But most of the time, the injury bug sticks with a player throughout his career. (See: Woods, Rashaun; Jennings, Jonas).
- Matt

Question: Looking way ahead, the 49ers are going to have some serious cuts once the draftees are on the roster. How do you see the numbers breaking down by position? Will the 49ers carry 4 or 5 RB's? 2 or 3 TE's? Can they really carry seven DL's if they draft a NT? I'm wondering what chance fringe players like Clayton, Ziegler, Sims, and Hudson or even aging veterans like Battle and Ulbrich have of making the roster this year? Who's most vulnerable?
Dude, Brooklyn

Answer: Preseason injuries certainly will help sort things out. I think everyone you mentioned, save Jeff Ulbrich and Arnaz Battle, are vulnerable. Ulbrich is a special teams ace and, as of now, he is the primary backup at both "ted" and "mike" linebacker. Aside from Isaac Bruce, Battle is the only wideout with significant starting experience and he's also a tough downfield blocker. I know everyone wonders about Thomas Clayton. I wonder, too, why someone with good hands and good preseason production hasn't gotten more work in the regular season. But the reality is that the 49ers likely will spend a high- to mid-round pick on a running back this year. Do they keep five RBs on the active roster? Clayton will have to prove his special-teams worth - and edge out Zak Keasey - to make the 53-man.
- Matt

April 3, 2009
Raji arriving Monday

One of the more intriguing prospects in the 2009 draft, Boston College nose tackle B.J. Raji, will visit with the 49ers on Monday and Tuesday. Good nose tackles are rare in the draft and Raji's skill set - he's a 330-pounder with excellent quickness - seem to perfectly match how the 49ers' use their nose tackle. Will Raji last until the 10th pick? A number of draft prognosticators have had him going to the Seahawks at No. 4. But recent reports of a positive test for marijuana will certainly give teams with a top 5 pick pause. The situation has the whiff - sorry, couldn't resist - of 1995 when Warren Sapp, a sure Top 5 selection following the college season, was linked to marijuana just before the draft. Sapp ended up falling to the Buccaneers at No. 12, and I seem to recall him having a pretty good career. (seven pro bowls, one defensive player of the year award, one super bowl ring).

The list of players visiting the 49ers in the coming days looks like this:

Raji
Mark Sanchez, USC QB
Andre Smith, Alabama OT
Michael Oher, Ole Miss OT
Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech WR

I haven't heard anything about other potential No. 10 picks, Jeremy Maclin or Brian Orakpo. FSU's Everette Brown and Penn State's Aaron Maybin have no plans to visit at this time.

-- Matt

April 2, 2009
Are the Broncos seeking Sanchez?

After today's blockbuster trade, the Broncos have both Kyle Orton and Chris Simms in their quarterback stable, but conventional wisdom has them going after another in the draft. Let's say USC's Mark Sanchez dropped to No. 10. What would it take to pry him away from the 49ers? The draft chart suggests the Broncos could do it by packaging their original first-round pick (no. 12) with the third-round pick they acquired from the Bears (no. 84). Or they could use the first-round pick from the Bears (no. 18) and their second-round pick (no. 48).

Hawaii held its pro day today in Carson, Ca., reasoning that the school could take advantage of the horde of NFL scouts and coaches who were in the neighborhood a day earlier for USC's pro day. The 49ers were represented by David McCloughan, the team's director of college scouting. Perhaps the most intriguing prospect was David Veikune, a 257-pound defensive end the 49ers likely would convert to an outside linebacker, a la Parys Haralson, Manny Lawson and Jay Moore. NFL Draft Scout has Veikune going somewhere in the third or fourth rounds. Veikune looked good at the Senior Bowl in January.

Also, Pro Football Talk is reporting that Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith will be visiting the 49ers. The team appears to be taking a hard look at just about every prospect they could take at pick No. 10. So far, Smith, OT Michael Oher, Sanchez, WR Michael Crabtree and NT B.J. Raji are coming into town for visits.

-- Matt Barrows

April 2, 2009
The real story on Jay Cutler *updated*

**Update** 2:32 p.m. Looks like the Bears were one of those aggressive teams I referenced in my original post below. NFL.com is reporting that Chicago and Denver have agreed to the terms of a deal.

**Update 2:35 p.m.** Jay Glazer of foxsports.com reports that Cutler has been traded to the Chicago Bears for two first-round picks, a third-round pick and quarterback Kyle Orton. Denver will receive Chicago's first- and third-round pick in this year's draft, and Chicago's first-round pick in 2010, along with Orton. The Bears get Cutler and the Broncos' fifth-round pick this year. ... If this is correct, you have to ask yourself whether the 49ers should have given up a similar package, say, Shaun Hill, two first rounders and a third rounder for Cutler ...

***************************
Ok, I'll admit it. For approximately three seconds yesterday morning, the guys at 49ersWebzone had me duped. In my defense, this was early-morning, pre-coffee Barrows we're talking about. That guy ain't too bright. And the headline - Broncos have deal in place to send Cutler to San Francisco - sounded pretty genuine. A flash of panic coursed through me. I got scooped. Do my bosses know? Does Maiocco have the story?

Then I woke up. Wait, Alex Smith is part of the deal? That doesn't make sense. And since when does Denver have a new newspaper? Ah, I said to myself, check the calendar. Others, however, did not. Radio stations in San Francisco and Sacramento - I'll spare them the embarrassment of printing their call letters - riffed on the story as if it was a done deal. And I can't tell you how many e-mails I got asking me to verify the "Examiner story." There's a rule in journalism about fact-checking that goes like this: If your mother says she loves you, check it out. That goes triple on April Fool's day.

Now for the real story about Cutler vis-à-vis the 49ers. There's certainly interest. There has to be when you don't have an obvious starting quarterback and a 25-year-old, Howitzer-armed Pro Bowler is being dangled in front of you. But don't expect the 49ers to be one of the teams that burst out of the starting gate foaming at the mouth to acquire Cutler. If other teams make a run at Cutler, strike out and the drama drags on, that's when the 49ers would make their move ...

-- Matt Barrows

April 1, 2009
Sanchez to visit 49ers next week

USC quarterback Mark Sanchez reportedly had an outstanding workout at the Trojans' pro day today in Los Angeles. Mike Singletary and GM Scot McCloughan were on hand for the event but apparently they haven't seen enough. The 49ers will host Sanchez on Wednesday and Thursday of next week. Other potential No. 10 picks the 49ers will host include Boston College NT B.J. Raji and, according to Matt Maiocco, Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree and Ole Miss offensive tackle Michael Oher.

Many draft "experts" have predicted the 49ers -- who have no clear starter at QB -- will select Sanchez at No. 10. Nowadays, however, it seems like Sanchez might not last that long. The Jacksonville Jaguars, owners of the eighth overall pick, had dinner with Sanchez Tuesday night in L.A. (Jack Del Rio is a former Trojan) and Sanchez's workout today was reportedly better than the one Georgia QB Matthew Stafford, heretofore the presumed No. 1 pick, had last month in Athens, Ga.

When Singletary was asked about the quarterback position at the team's "state of the franchise" event in February, he didn't seem that high on adding Sanchez or any rookie quarterback. "In the draft or free agency, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot out there," Singletary said at the time. Asked if that meant he was ruling out a QB with the No. 10 pick, this is how Singletary responded. "You know what, that's something we'd have to talk long and hard about. Actually, yeah, there'd be a lot of conversation on that deal."

Singletary obviously changed his mind about adding a free-agent QB. (See: Warner, Kurt; the romance of). And he could certainly change his mind about Sanchez. In any event, the 49ers are wise to show interest. In Sanchez does fall to 10 on April 25, there will be plenty of teams clamoring to grab him, creating an opportunity to trade down. Who knows, maybe the Broncos will still be stuck with unhappy Jay Cutler on draft day and will be willing to make a deal ...

-- Matt Barrows

April 1, 2009
Bruce will be back

Veteran wideout Isaac Bruce called coach Mike Singletary this morning and delivered this message: I'll be back. The 36-year-old wideout had been uncertain whether he wanted to return for a 16th season. There is no word yet on whether Bruce will join his teammates for offseason workouts. Both Singletary and GM Scot McCloughan are in Los Angeles today for USC's pro day.

Bruce's return is a big lift for a 49ers' team that has plenty of rising stars at the wideout position but little experience. Bruce did not take part in a recent minicamp during which newcomer Brandon Jones, the No. 3 receiver in Tennessee last year, and Josh Morgan, who started one game for the 49ers in 2008, were the starting wideouts. Bruce likely will be the starter at flanker with Morgan opposite him at split end.

Bruce led the 49ers in receptions (61) and receiving yards (835) and also caught seven touchdowns last season. More than half -- 35 -- of those receptions came in the final six games when Shaun Hill was the quarterback. Bruce also served as a mentor to Morgan and fellow youngster Jason Hill, who are expected to take on expanded roles this season. Morgan said recently that he viewed Bruce as a "second father on the field."

Singletary has characterized Bruce's indecision as a normal consideration for someone who has been in the league 15 seasons. Still, Singletary said last month that he hoped for an answer from Bruce by today. The taciturn Bruce has not spoken publicly since the season ended and it's not known how he feels about Mike Martz's dismissal at season's end. Bruce spent nine seasons under Martz with the Rams before rejoining him last year in San Francisco.

*******************
How Bruce stacks up:

MOST CAREER RECEIVING YARDS
Jerry Rice 22,895
Isaac Bruce 14,944
Tim Brown 14,934
Marvin Harrison 14,580
Terrell Owens 14,122

MOST CAREER RECEPTIONS
Jerry Rice 1,549
Cris Carter 1,101
Marvin Harrison 1,095
Tim Brown 1,094
Isaac Bruce 1,003
Andre Reed 951
Terrell Owens 951

MOST CAREER RECEIVING TD
Jerry Rice 197
Terrell Owens 139
Randy Moss 135
Cris Carter 130
Marvin Harrison 128
Tim Brown 100
Steve Largent 100
Don Hutson 99
Isaac Bruce 91
Don Maynard (1958-73) 88

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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